Social Networking Basics for Marketers and Entrepreneurs

2010 is fast becoming the year of Business Social Media marketing. Two drivers from last year continue to push entrepreneurs and marketers into Online Social Networks. First, Barack Obama proved that it can work in a big way. His presidential campaign used it to motivate people to spread the word. Second, the faltering 2009 economy made everyone with a job feel like they were ninety days away from either needing a new job or starting a new business.

People connected individually in a big way in 2009 as businesses began experimenting. Now businesses large and small are connecting with customers and prospects through existing Online Social Networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in 2010 marketing initiatives and campaigns.

The good news for busy entrepreneurs and marketers is that online social networking makes spreading the word and/or reaching out to your network easier and more effective than ever. Many of our friends and clients are using these tools to connect with audiences where they already are online.

If you have information or news about your company or product to share, including information that is already on your website, you can use social networking sites to extend the reach of your message beyond your own web site. It’s also a great way to create traffic to your Web site, and that’s a great way to gain traction and grow.

Selecting a Network:
There are social and business aspects to online social networking. Linkedin is the online social network for business, while Facebook is predominantly friends and family. Twitter, a real time short messaging service, is very much a hybrid of the two. Because Twitter content is “open” – anyone can see and reply to any listing, the use of search keywords is critical to the effective use of the social network.

The first thing to ask is what do you want to accomplish? There are three key outcomes for entrepreneurs and marketers who participate in online social networks:

1. You can become known among your colleagues and target audience (your potential customers) as someone who is knowledgeable and has a giving personality —someone who contributes information, shares knowledge, connects people, and perhaps even lightens another person’s day with a funny comment. Engaging this way, and reaching out to others who are similarly engaged, will expand your online network.

2. You can build social relationships that become business relationships.

3. You can promote your events (like our Internet Marketing Seminars), share learnings from your accomplishments (talk about your customers), and create excitement about events you are attending (like industry conferences).

Determining your priority among these outcomes will help you to prioritize your social networking plan. For example, LinkedIn is best for the first outcome, while Facebook is best for outcome #2, and Twitter is best for outcome #3. Nevertheless, you should still use the other social networks to reenforce your social networking goals.

Use Social Networks like a Search Engine
Monitor your keywords – the words and phrases with which you want to be associated — on LinkedIn and Twitter, and use your keywords when you post and participate. When you need business resources or guidance, consider using the search functions on LinkedIn. To make the best use of Twitter’s openness, we recommend desktop platforms like TweetDeck or Seesmic. You can set up live searches for your keywords and easily join the conversation.

Use Social Networks like Email
Check in on your social networks a few times a day, when you check your email. Respond to content that is relevant to you and your audience.

Measure Your Results
Effective social networking results in growth in network size, so tracking the number of connections on the networks where you are active is one form of feedback. There are also online tools like Twitter Analyzer and Twitalyzer that scan your participation on Twitter or Facebook and provide feedback on the quality of your participation. We work with our clients to interpret the feedback from these tools and to determine how to integrate the feedback into our clients marketing plans.

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