Social Networking for Small Businesses

Facebook

Social Networking is the term given to a variety of new techniques for communication with clients, customers, prospects and other interested parties. As with other marketing techniques it needs careful planning to ensure that the right message gets through to the right (target) audience.  Whilst using social networking and media can be a blunt, scatter gun approach, with careful planning and dedicated application it can, like a rifle, be accurate, well targeted and can be useful in developing relationships with the target audience.

TwitterWhat it is.

Social networking is the name given to a variety of tools that can be used to develop relationships with customers. Of particular importance is the fact that the use of these tools will help to drive traffic to a website or blog and ultimately help search engine optimisation of the website.

For businesses these tools can be used for reputation management, test marketing and feedback from customers on existing or proposed new products. It can also help to increase brand awareness of  the business and raise the profile of individuals establishing them as experts in their field and can be linked to articles, websites,   blogs and a variety of other media.

LinkedInThe main tools for small and micro businesses are LinkedIn, Twitter and increasingly Facebook where Business pages can now be set up. Facebook has currently over 500M users and businesses find this increasingly useful to provide a channel for communication with customers. For instance videos and photos can be downloaded from the site and forums set up to discuss various aspects of the business and its products.

What it isn’t

Social networking is not a quick fix for getting customers. Like all marketing it needs a careful and thoroughly thought out plan to achieve goals set for it. It should be used as part of a complete plan and not instead of it. At all times the focus must be on the business goals and not on chatter about your social life. If that is what you want to network about, then set up additional  accounts with that as the main focus.

Each of the three tools identified (and there are many more that you should consider to see what is right for you and your business) have different purposes. LinkedIn for instance allows you to search for specific people in your target market. It also has very useful Q & A area where your expertise can be shown and your own reputation as a knowledgeable expert can be developed. Twitter on the other hand only allows 140 characters in each ‘tweet’ so the main purpose is to drive traffic and enhance your Google search listing as tweets are also indexed by Google.

As mentioned previously Facebook can be used for business and personal reasons. Currently the development of Facebook for business is in its early stages but it can still be used for developing your expertise and to link to other media such as your website and blog.

How to get started

Getting started is simple. All the tools I have mentioned are free to set up an account and to use. Just register and start using. A word of caution, however. Although they are free to use to be effective needs a considerable amount of time.  Firstly you need to establish your account; then you need to gather fans, friends or other contacts.  This can be done by searching for your target audience or ensuring that your communications are keyword rich. Then you need to provide useful content and information. Only then can you start to see the benefit.  It needs co-ordination between these tools and your blog and website. However before you even start, develop an action plan so that you can integrate this form of marketing with your existing plans and make sure they work with each other.

If you require further information or want to discuss how Social Media and Networking can help your business contact bob.francis@sgba.co.uk or call 07941 426807

All trademarks acknowledged.

>Networking – Like it or loathe it?

>Networking – to build up or maintain informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities (Encarta dictionary)

We regularly hear and read of the advantages of networking but do you hate walking into a room full of strangers and/or find face to face networking difficult to get to? You will be pleased to know you are not alone!! There are many business owners that do!!

But networking does not have to be like this. There are many other ways you can meet and build relationships with business colleagues:

Informal networking at PTA meetings, church functions, your child’s football games, or anything else that puts you in touch with influential people, can end up being as or more powerful than “official” forms of networking.
Making a phone call to one of your contacts just to have a general catch up, is networking.
When you are out socially have a few business cards on you, just in case. Few things are worse than someone who’s constantly thrusting their business angle on you, but if it comes up naturally in conversation that you have an engineering business, and that you make xyz, you’ll have a card handy. And ask for their contact details – that’s networking.
Introducing business colleagues who live near each other or who have complementary businesses is networking.
Spending a few minutes a day on Twitter, or other social networks, engaging in conversation is networking.
Answering (and asking!) questions on LinkedIn about your area of business/expertise is networking.
Joining LinkedIn groups, and being an active member, is networking.
Having a coffee or a drink with a different business colleague once a week is networking.
Attending local business exhibitions (you can normally see list of exhibitors beforehand) and chatting to exhibitors you would like to know more about. Exchange business cards – that’s networking.

All of these activities can be done at a time and place to suit you, and don’t involve the stress and pressure of formal networking events, yet they can still produce the same results.

Importantly, networking should not be when you have some ‘spare’ time but should be part of your business plan. Effective networking is a long-term activity and not a ‘quick fix’.

>Networking – Like it or loathe it?

>Networking – to build up or maintain informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities (Encarta dictionary)

We regularly hear and read of the advantages of networking but do you hate walking into a room full of strangers and/or find face to face networking difficult to get to? You will be pleased to know you are not alone!! There are many business owners that do!!

But networking does not have to be like this. There are many other ways you can meet and build relationships with business colleagues:

Informal networking at PTA meetings, church functions, your child’s football games, or anything else that puts you in touch with influential people, can end up being as or more powerful than “official” forms of networking.
Making a phone call to one of your contacts just to have a general catch up, is networking.
When you are out socially have a few business cards on you, just in case. Few things are worse than someone who’s constantly thrusting their business angle on you, but if it comes up naturally in conversation that you have an engineering business, and that you make xyz, you’ll have a card handy. And ask for their contact details – that’s networking.
Introducing business colleagues who live near each other or who have complementary businesses is networking.
Spending a few minutes a day on Twitter, or other social networks, engaging in conversation is networking.
Answering (and asking!) questions on LinkedIn about your area of business/expertise is networking.
Joining LinkedIn groups, and being an active member, is networking.
Having a coffee or a drink with a different business colleague once a week is networking.
Attending local business exhibitions (you can normally see list of exhibitors beforehand) and chatting to exhibitors you would like to know more about. Exchange business cards – that’s networking.

All of these activities can be done at a time and place to suit you, and don’t involve the stress and pressure of formal networking events, yet they can still produce the same results.

Importantly, networking should not be when you have some ‘spare’ time but should be part of your business plan. Effective networking is a long-term activity and not a ‘quick fix’.