By Kevin Gault
Social-networking websites provide many things—online chat, messaging, e-mail, video and blogging—but can they help you build your business?
Every day, millions of people flock to sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Digg for a variety of purposes. Some successful marketers claim these sites are valuable assets for growing a business.
“Social-media news and bookmarking sites are a dream come true for marketers who can craft compelling content,” says Internet marketing strategist and content developer Brian Clark (www.copyblogger.com). “You can get exposure, traffic to your website and subscribers to your blog or newsletter simply by creating educational content.”
Okay, social-networking sites can boost a business, but how exactly do you use them? One simple way is by networking. Use online discussion forums to connect with prospective clients and business partners.
But don’t try to connect with everyone. “Be selective,” adds Clark. “Network with other users—especially ‘power users’—who are in the position to make business decisions. This is social media, and just like ‘real life,’ it’s all about who you know.”
Clark also recommends participating at sites to learn about users. Users at one site can be very different from those at another, so get a handle on what their needs are before you start talking about your products or services. And when you communicate about your company, craft your content based on what you’ve learned about users.
Marketing-communications copywriter Ed Gandia (www.edgandia.com) recommends another approach. “Scan industry blogs for ideas and insights,” he says, “and by contributing comments to them, you not only help others with your own ideas, but you also get your name out there, which can help build exposure.”
Proceed with Caution
But be careful, Gandia warns—if you talk about your business too soon or too aggressively, you’ll scare people off: “For social networking to work well, your number-one goal must be to willingly share good ideas and insights. When your first concern is to promote yourself, it shows, and it can easily backfire.”
You might want to set up a blog for your company using a service such as WordPress or Blogger.com. Post your own articles on the blog to make others aware of your expertise and your business. Keep the articles brief and be sure that the content is tailored to your readers.
If you happen to be a freelance white-paper writer, social-networking sites can help your business as well. “These sites can enhance your business by facilitating communication with your peers,” adds Gandia. “For a freelancer, being able to share ideas with other writers and marketers across the globe is a huge benefit. Freelance writers tend to work in isolation, so having a means to communicate easily with other subject-matter experts is a luxury we didn’t have a decade ago.”
Give social-networking sites a try. Use online forums to network selectively. Don’t just read the information on the sites—participate to learn about users. Check industry blogs for business ideas and set up your own blog to get the word out. Before you know it, social-networking sites might become a valuable weapon in your company’s marketing arsenal.