Social Network: Which one suits your business?
Before the boom of social networking sites, businesses advertised primarily in the traditional way—posters, flyers, billboards, commercials, and other forms of offline marketing. If you have been monitoring the fast evolution of the Internet, you have seen how marketing strategies evolved from the pages of newspapers to a Facebook Fan Page.
These days, it’s easier for a customer to simply log on to his account and look up the reviews of a particular restaurant. This often helps in deciding whether or not to bring the family to this place, or to just choose another one.
It is for this reason that business owners include establishing an online presence as part of their marketing strategies. The lure of reaching millions of people worldwide is undeniable.
If a business cannot be searched online, its owners probably need to enrol in an Internet 101 class ASAP.
Before the age of Facebook and Twitter, however, social networking is different from what we know today.
Pre-Facebook Era: Early Social Networking Sites
It was the first email composed and sent in 1971 that brought social networking to life. Although the message only contained the incomprehensible word “qwertyuiop,” it laid the foundation of an easier and faster way of communicating through the Internet.
The first social networking site was Geocities. It was launched in 1994, bought by Yahoo! in 1999, and was closed down a decade after. Geocities gave its users a way to create and customize their own websites.
After the success of Geocities, plenty of sites followed suit. Some of these are probably closed down by now: TheGlobe.com, AOL Instant Messenger, SixDegrees.com, Classmates, Friendzy, Hi-5, and a lot more. Some of these sites also allowed users to send instant messages to their contacts.
In 2002, Friendster made its mark as one of the modern social networking sites. Within a few months, around three million users adopted the site.
MySpace was launched in 2003, following Friendster’s success. Today, MySpace already surpasses Friendster, with the latter being re-launched as a social gaming platform. In the same year, the more professional-looking LinkedIn was also launched, serving as a site dedicated to professional career and business networking.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook exclusively for Harvard students. From a college-centered social site, it eventually opened up to the rest of the world and easily surpassed Friendster and MySpace. It now enjoys the pinnacle of the mount as the top social networking site today.
Ten Social Networking Sites for Your Business
Considering how fast social networking sites grow, it’s no wonder that businesses tap on its potential. Here are ten social networking sites that you can use for your business:
Of course, the social networking giant must be included in your list. From being a Harvard-exclusive site, Zuckerberg’s brainchild now boasts of over 900 million active users worldwide—users that you can tap and market to with the right strategies. As a business owner, you can post photos of your products or services, promote events, or advertise products on Facebook.
Don’t let the 140-word count limit you. This micro-blogging and social networking site lets you send Tweets about your company to your followers. Moreover, you can monitor the feedback to your products/services through Mentions (@username) and Hashtags (#keyword).
Contrary to its other social networking counterparts, LinkedIn takes on a more business-like approach in presenting its users’ accounts. The site is primarily used as professional networking, where its 150 million registered users can post professional information about themselves, post their educational background and work experience, and ask “connections” or contacts for “professional recommendation”.
Surviving the threat of Facebook, MySpace still remains to be one of America’s favorite social networking sites. It will allow you to customize your page, add videos, music, and other forms of media that can help your business attract the site’s 30 million users.
- Google Plus
Not to be outdone, search engine Google also came up with its own social networking site in 2011. By April 2012, it already has 170 million users. Through PlusBlogging, businesses can use the power of blogging to establish their branding online or increase the amount of traffic in their own website.
YouTube can provide a way for business owners to create a video commercial and make it viral. Promote your products and services through videos, in order to give your current and potential customers a glimpse of what you have in store for them.
Pinterest holds a lot of potential, considering that it’s only a two-year-old networking site. Launched in 2010, the site now has over 10 million users worldwide. It banks on the idea of a pinboard, where users can Re-pin or Pin photos and videos onto their pages or “Boards”. You can share certain company milestones or products through this site.
Do you have a keynote address that you wish to share to those who were not able to attend your seminar? SlideShare allows its users to upload presentations, documents, and professional videos created through various software (e.g. PDF, PowerPoint, OpenOfffice, and Keynote). With 58 million unique visitors per month, businesses can easily share their files for users to comment, rate, share or even download.
FourSquare is a location-based social networking site made for mobile devices. Its 20-million users can check-in their locations through their smartphones or other gadgets. You can share where your big event is currently being held, whether it is a launch of your new product or the company’s anniversary.
StumbleUpon will let you download a toolbar that will find and recommend content to you. You can easily connect with potential customers who share the same interests as that of your business. This is helpful in reaching out to your niche or target market online.
How Businesses Are Benefiting From Social Networking Today
Since more and more users are using social networking sites, both small and big business owners now look to these online communities as means to gather information about their customers. Businesses benefit from social networking by:
- Saving money on advertising
Recession pushes businesses to resort to cost-effective measures in promoting their products. Since most social networking sites offer free registration, business owners can promote their products and services for free compared to offline marketing, where they have to pay for ad space and/or airtime.
- Marketing to a wider customer base
As with any marketing strategy, businesses need to assess their needs and their target market when opening an account in any social media. For instance, if the target is the US market, it would be wise to also open an account in MySpace as it is still one of the top-ranking social sites in the country. You also have to take proper care of all your accounts, as outdated content may discourage potential customers.
- Bridging the gap between clients and business owners
Social networking sites allow users to easily air out their comments to the business owners. Whether it is good or bad feedback, business owners can now easily interact with their customers and potential clients. They can also answer their clients’ queries regarding their company.
- Recruiting possible employees
There are plenty of articles on the Internet saying that people should be careful of what they post online, as potential employers may see them. In fact, a lot of them actually do. For instance, you can check the credibility of the person you just interviewed a few hours ago by simply checking out his/her social media accounts.
- Connecting with people globally
With social media, gone are the days of attending a meeting physically. Nowadays, businesses can conduct online meetings with a group of people from literally halfway across the world.
As technology develops, so do social networking sites. Right now, you can see these websites creating applications that would make it even easier for users to log in to their accounts using mobile devices. In a few years’ time, no one can tell if Facebook will remain on top. But it is undeniable that small and big businesses will continue to take advantage of the benefits of social networking sites.
Authored by:Kyle Kam is a marketing consultant for Affilorama, an affiliate marketing portal. You can also check their affiliate marketing blog and affiliate marketing forum for more tips and information about affiliate marketing. They also offer, free affiliate marketing lessons for beginning and advance affiliates. You may follow him on Twitter @undisputedkyle
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