Using Social Networks for Marketing – Part 1

Social networks such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning,etc provide small businesses with an unprecedented opportunity to reach a large number of people and interact with them in a meaningful way without incurring the expense of a large marketing budget.

Getting to grips with the different options and understanding the subtle differences between them can be a daunting tasks. For the small business owner who also still has to control the day-to-day running of the business, allocating time to spend looking at the different options seems like a non-productive use of their time.

So in order to assist owners we present an series of articles which will give an overview of the different options and show how the tools can be used. The key is to use the right tool for the job, the old saying of “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is very true. Making sure that you understand the tools at your disposal and then select the right tool for the job.

The goal you must always keep in mind is that you want to engage your clients (or prospective clients), you want to start a conversation, which is a two way process, the tools can help you start the conversation, but you must be prepared to keep the conversation going.

It is easy to make the mistake of creating a 'campaign', allocating so many hours to setting up the campaign and running it. That is not marketing, that is advertising. And if there is one thing you can remember from this article it is this, if you want to use social networking for advertising: Don't do it!

It is just as easy for a person to not be a friend/contact/associate on a web site as it is for them to become one. So if you start to come across as a telemarketer then it only takes one mouse click for them to withdraw from the network and you may never get a chance to engage them again. Or worse still is may take one click for you to be kicked out of a network and lose contact with large pool of potential clients.

The secret is to follow the expected etiquette of the site, don't push your product/service and make sure you further the goals of the community.

You want to become part of the community, contributing and being recognised as a valuable part of the network. As your stature within the community grows so does the perceived value of your products and services, and therein lies the secret to success.

The next step is to determine how to start using the networks. Some communities you will need to create and some you will join.

When creating a new community you need to spend the time recruiting members. You also need to allow the community to grow and be prepared to relinquish some control of the community, people will not remain in a community where they feel that their voice is not being heard and that they do not have some measure of control.

When joining existing communities it is important to make sure that you assist in furthering the goals of the community, use your knowledge and expertise to grow the community and become a positive contributing member to the community.

Either way it is about building a relationships with members of the community, and this is done through contributing, being sincere, being open and being honest.

This does not mean that you have to be anonymous, state who you are and display your brand. Make sure your company name and/or brand is always in your signature and build the brand awareness of either your product or your company.

In Part 2 we will look at specific tools/sites we can use and where each of these are best suited.

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