A Beginner’s Guide to Social Networking

It is incredible to believe that a term, Social Networking, can enter the business market and become one of the most powerful yet terrifying skills that a business owner needs to learn.

 

For anyone like me that has learnt marketing through the works of Kotler trying to see how he would integrate Social Networking into my marketing processes is a challenge. I know this as I have spent 10 Years building a Business Social network and I have mentored, trained and nurtured thousands of business owners through this process.

 

Can Social Networks work for business?

 

In a world of mass broadcasting, massive corporate dominance and a distinct lack of trust amongst the consumer and business world toward the intentions of large companies, Conversation Marketing has been born. The marketing of products and services through conversations, through word of mouth, online, viral and so powerful it will dominate the marketing strategies of the future.

 

FaceBook is tremendously powerful for children and young adults at connecting and providing ways to socialise online and make friendships globally. Business Social Networks such as Ecademy and LinkedIn have created a solution for the business world, the difference between the two is that LinkedIn have focused purely on the tools while Ecademy have built a community.

 

The influence of the conversations taking place online within the consumer and business market is vast. Ask your children how they are deciding on what brands they want to wear, on what companies they want to buy from, on what programs they must watch, on literally anything they might consume, they will have been influenced through their online conversations and through reading the profiles of their peers. This is a subtle, stealth-like way of creating brand awareness, this audience is not influenced by the adverts that are posted on the site, in fact, I asked my 16 year old who she saw advertise on FaceBook and she said, “I haven’t seen any”! Yet, this is how FaceBook is funded, through the Brands utilising the vast database of FaceBook users to push thoughts and products at them.

 

When Abercrombie and Fitch a USA Clothing brand launched in the UK my daughter, Hannah, was so excited that she wanted to spread the word to her network by having their logo all over her profile; was she paid to do this? No, this was all part of her image and she, like thousands of others, influenced the UK Young Adult market and helped in the successful launch of their first shop in the UK – awesome!

 

So what are the opportunities that exist for you inside a Business Social Network?

 

As a business owner, who may have slightly less grand ideas of growing your business, but never the less you want to make sure that customers come to you, that your business grows and that you keep your costs low in order to complete in a global, highly competitive market, Social Networking is relevant, powerful and a must have skill.

 

Already conversations are taking place in Business Social Networks about your products and services, your potential customers are asking questions inside the Clubs and Blogs that you could answer, this minute your brand is being searched for on Google and you want to be at the top of that search. But is business purely about finding a customer? Or is it also about having the skills to develop ideas, being creative, market yourself, manage your cash flow and find ways of gaining investment?

 

A Business Social Network is a marketing channel; but it is also a business development channel, it provides opportunities for collaboration on projects, it is an educational resource, it is a supportive environment. A Business Social Network is a group of people who all have something in common, they are all in business, but they have different skills, different needs, and different weaknesses and when they communicate with one another, they all fill the gaps for each other.

 

Social Networking is not going away, it is growing, and as the next generation leave FaceBook and move into Business Social Networks they will know how to build their network, build their online reputation, find the right conversations and grow their business. They will not use Yellow Pages, they will not always use Google, they will use their network to find who they need to know, and those who are most connected, who have the best reputations will win.

 

My hints and tips for successful use of Business Social Networks.

 

When I teach this subject, I try to help people to understand three elements. Community, Intention and Tools.

 

Community is all about how you want to grow your reputation within the network, what do you want to stand for? What is your expertise? How would you like to be talked about? Real value within a community is felt when people connect with you because someone suggested they did; because you are regarded as a good person, because your product or service has been recommended, because they enjoyed an article you wrote. Often others can see things that you can’t! Advocacy, being recommended publically, is at its most powerful in an online network as it is hugely viral, can be seen by many and is easily achieved simply by sending a message to one person and copying it to the other person in your network.

 

You want to be a magnet inside a network/community, attracting others members toward you, once you have achieved a certain level of visibility and credibility inside a network opportunities will flow toward you, but this takes time and patience but once achieved the rewards are vast and long standing.

 

Your attitude toward what result you want your actions to achieve, your Intention, are critical for ensuring your time is spent productively, respecting yourself and others and staying on track with the purpose of your business is important. I have seen many people spend hours and hours having playful conversations on Blogs and inside Clubs, which may be great for recreational reasons but achieve little for their credibility and perhaps too much of the wrong thing for their visibility. We want you to gain time by using a social network not loose it, achieving leverage is one of the huge advantages of utilising Social Networking tools.

 

Finally, the Tools. I have left this to the end as I want you to be motivated to dive in, understand the relevance to your business and understand, albeit, briefly how to build your reputation. Once you understand all this, the tools (the software) will all fall into place.

 

For those of you who are BNI members you will be familiar with Visibility and Credibility leading you to Profitability, Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI is a great teacher in this field. Social networks provide tools to enable you to be more visible in the community and through Google, and help you demonstrate your credibility. With these achieved, your business will grow and so will your knowledge, in fact, people tell me that they have become stronger business people due to the knowledge they have absorbed from others in their network.

 

Visibility can be achieved through contribution. Writing a Blog, or adding a comment to a Blog, creating a MarketPlace advert, adding a testimonial to someone in your network whom you admire, basically, every time you contribute you will be more visible. Your contribution will encourage people back to your profile; the great thing is that these links to your profile remain forever, and content is being searched for 24/7.

 

The tools are enablers, nothing more, using the tools to distribute Brand ‘You’, is not scary, you just have to join a Social Network and take a deep breath while you navigate around, connect with people and in time, in a short time, you will have learnt a new skill. This skill will save you money, increase your sales and ensure that you are well and truly ready for the 21st Century business world, it is happening now, so make sure you are also part of it.

 

 

 

© Penny Power 2008