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How to use Social Networking in your Online Business

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 29 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Online Business Internet Social

Using social networking to promote online business is now being used by an increasing number of small enterprises. What has become clear from the rapid rise of the social networking sites like Facebook is that an online business can gain massive amounts of publicity from these websites. This could ultimately mean an increase in the number of potential customers visiting your online business. As social networking has grown, the Internet has shown itself to be a superb platform that smaller businesses in particular can use to cultivate a closer relationship with their customers.

Social Networking Formats

Your online business has basically two choices to use social networking on the Internet to promote the goods and services it sells. You can create a brand presence on the main social networking sites such as MySpace, or you can create a community within your own online business. Hosting your own community will mean choosing what format your social networking will take. Your online business has a number of options that include:

Chat Rooms
Perhaps the oldest of the social networking formats, hosting a chat room on your website can provide your customers with a place they can interact with other customers. The resulting content is indexed by the world’s search engines and brings even more potential customers to your website. Developing an active dialogue with your customers via a Internet chat room can be a highly effective marketing tool.

Over the past two years the blog has become an Internet phenomenon. What began as little more than the Internet diaries of users has now transformed into a media platform in its own right. Online businesses are now actively using blogs written by senior management or even employees to reach existing and new customers for their online business.

Forums and Discussion Boards
The Internet forum is generally an umbrella terms that is used to describe any online interactive environment that Internet users can log onto and use. Internet Relay Chat was one of the earliest examples of a forum. For your online business, forums can be a great way to host special events that your business’s customers may be interested in participating in.

Engaging with Customers

The central ideal behind using social networking websites is to interact with your existing and potential new customers. With millions of people now active on the Internet looking for recommendations for the goods or services they want to buy, cultivating the presence your online business has on social networking websites makes commercial sense.

However, it is vitally important that your online business understands the social networking sites it will have a presence on. The existing members of current social networking sites have a very low tolerance for spam or inappropriate marketing messages. Get this wrong, and you could damage the overall brand and reputation of your business. So it is crucial that you thoroughly research how your business could effectively use social networks before you begin to actively design a marketing campaign.

Community Checklist

To ensure your online business moves effectively into the social networking space, follow the guidance below to gain the most from the online communities that continue to grow across the Internet:

More than a Revenue Stream
The social networks you could start to complement your online business should be used for more than simply a new marketing channel. It is easy to begin to use this captive audience for general sales messages. Yes this can be done, but you must not over-burden this audience with sales messages as social networking is about more than simply selling goods or services.

Understand the Members
The social networking sites that are on the Internet at the moment are very different. It is important from a marketing point of view to understand how different the users of Facebook are from Bebo. The profile of these users will enable you to see if your online business is a good fit or not with each social networking site.

Niche Networks
The high profile social networking sites like MySpace may grab the headlines and have the lions share of members, but it can be highly effective to look at smaller networks that have specialised in certain subjects. These could be an ideal fit with the goods or services your online business sells. The practical advantage is that the members of these niche social networks will be open to your marketing messages.

Blog for Customers
If your online business doesn’t have its own social networking features, or a blog of its own, this shouldn’t stop you from posting on blogs and social networking sites that you have an interest in. The more you post interesting thoughts and ideas the better. With each new post you are raising the profile of your online business.

Social networking websites and business may not seem to fit together that well. Over the last two years, however, social networking has taken on a distinct commercial edge as large and small businesses alike have realised that these communities of people are all potential new customers. If you’re carefully where you place the marketing messages from your online business you may find that social networking is a lucrative channel to brand new customers.

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