Monday, November 24, 2008

The Case for Using Social Networking

Quick Points:
  1. Social Networking is here to stay
  2. You as a business owner should embrace the concept
  3. Remember that Google's idea of search marketing was considered silly 10 years ago
  4. The business landscape is changing - Yahoo is researching how to reach social networks
  5. Below are 5 essential activities to conduct on either Facebook, LinkedIN, or Twitter
For the past three or four months, I have heard rumblings and gripes from many of my colleagues, expressing their frustration with Social Networking, on venues such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN. Many have trouble embracing its business purpose, others consider it a waste of valuable business time, and some feel that it is a fad that will go away soon.

As a web designer for the past 10 years, I have seen many fads come and go ("that was so 15 minutes ago" was a term that was specifically created due to the advent of fly by night web trends), such as, flashing banner ads, and Flash games that drop more cookies on your PC than Santa on Christmas Eve. I can assure the skeptics two things: first - social networking is here to stay, and second - those that embrace the concept sooner rather than later will profit from the commitment. To understand why, let's rewind about 10 years to another nifty concept - search advertising.

Google rapidly rose to power despite critical opinion that there is no way to monetize search. 10 years later its advertising delivery system AdWords is still a force to be reckoned with, as Fortune 500's are aggressively making the switch to online advertising, both on Google and its vast partner networks. Just this past year, Proctor and Gamble, one of the most corporate-traditional cultures in the world agreed to an employee exchange program, which helped both Google and P&G profit from each other. The point is that even traditional companies are jumping on a bandwagon that the tech world has foreseen many moons ago.

This morning I was reading an article in Advertising Age, which discusses a study being conducted by Yahoo and several Social Networking startups. The theory is that consumers can be targeted much more effectively by relationships, rather than demographics. So if you are talking with Judy more often than Bill, it is much more likely that you will have similar tastes as Judy does.

What this means for you is that when you study your friends' likes and dislikes on Social Networking sites, you can better understand what they collectively need, and deliver those needs. It is the ultimate open research tool. Further, it is a direct way to develop good relationships with your client base online (as a supplement to in person relationships...not a replacement). As I often quote from Chase Bank, "the right relationship is everything"...a phrase which bears greater merit during our recent financial travails. It behooves you as a business to embrace social networking, so that when new methods of monetizing the concept emerge, you'll be ready to roll.

As I wrote a few weeks back on this blog, the best way to get started is to create profiles at Facebook and LinkedIN. The only initial cost is time, which unfortunately can be sucked from your day quite rapidly if you do not set proper controls and discipline to use the tools effectively. I recommend about 15 minutes a day to start - simply by logging on once a day and updating your status. If you can squeeze in the time, recognize that no man (or woman) is an island, and add a few friends that you know also have profiles. They will also help you during your learning curve.

Here are the top five activities I recommend during your power 15 minutes each day of Social Networking:
  1. Update your status at least once a day
  2. Add interesting content to your profile that people will read (blog)
  3. Add friends that you can relate to on both a professional and personal basis
  4. Take some time to read other people's profiles, and comment on their statuses
  5. Introduce friends of yours to other friends that have similar interests
Try it out for a week. I assure you that you will enjoy it, but also consider how Social Networking can help your clients, and your business in the future.

Tom Ossa
Rockland Web Design
(845) 271 - 4488

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