Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube?

Those in business are well aware of the power of having a website. More recently, the utilization of social networking sites for business promotion and lead acquisition is gaining popularity. Because social networking takes time, companies that are serious about their business success have decided to hire paid staff whose sole responsibilities are to connect with prospects and customers to drive traffic to company websites using social networking techniques.

While considering this idea, I took some time to conduct a little statistical analysis using Google’s nifty search trend analysis tool. This link provides research about search trends for 5 well-known and reputable social networks: MySpace, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and YouTube. I must admit, the YouTube results surprised me. But, other than that, this data informs me that the trend of employing social networking, for any reason, is a critical strategy for businesses whose future growth and revenue relies upon connecting with potential customers or consumers living in the United States.

Social Network and Your BusinessIf you are a solopreneur or small business owner, you may not have the capacity to outsource or employ full-time staff for social networking so that duty will fall to you. The time that you spend on social networking is not frivolous time. Prospecting is an important part of establishing your new business and helping it continue to thrive.

There are many ways to attract your market using social networking. All networks provide personal blogging features. Duplicating content is not advised, although it is inconvenient to have to create multiple blog posts for every social network to which you belong. Since we all must prioritize how our valuable time is spent, a far superior solution is to use RSS outbound feeds to publish blog posts to all your social networking profiles. Since it is a feed, it is not considered to be duplication of content.

Most networks offer groups, forums or both. Groups and forums allow you to interact with the online community and begin to establish relationships. Including a link to your blog is a great way to assist your blog’s Page Rank through linkbacks and does not inhibit the confidence of members who appreciate what you have written. As an example, imagine that your business is home remodeling. Joining or starting a group about home repair is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, in a helpful way, and attract new business.

Social networking is often abused by people who do not understand how to effectively build online relationships. The keyword is relationship. Remember to be courteous, to write professionally and, perhaps most importantly, to establish a common ground for communicating with an individual or group before you begin to promote anything.

All too often, I see marketers make the social faux pas of leading with an offer. Even worse than that, in my opinion, is submitting a comment or wall post that includes a banner or link to their business. If a single-minded marketer, whose sole interest is making money, begins to bombard a group, forum or me with endless links to business opportunities or affiliate promotions, I tend to lose interest in them and what they have to say. I know that I am not alone.

For marketers who are conscious of the fact that there is more at stake than making money, social networking provides a method of establishing credibility, loyalty and referral business. The latter is THE most important aspect of any business endeavor. People who come to you on the basis of their friend’s recommendation already believe you can deliver the product or service they seek in a professional and cost-effective way.

Social networking is no longer an arena just for the kids. Business people who do not grasp the importance of utilizing these sites effectively will fall behind the curve as this trend continues to rise in popularity. Facebook has embraced their place by enhancing their Fan Page feature so that it is a better way to promote one’s business. Well known companies like Microsoft, IBM, Wells Fargo, State Farm and Prudential all have well-attended and active Facebook Fan Pages.

The power of your future business relies upon ready access to existing and potential customers who are interested in your product or service and who also want to remain informed. When they opt-in to your Facebook Group or Fan Page, you have gained permission to market to them and, if you do not abuse this privilege, your business can grow and you will prosper.

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