Social Networking is Your Business

Marketing your business effectively requires a dive into Social Networking

Social media has changed the way we do business, whether you know it or not. Major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and You Tube have changed the way companies market and brand themselves. More importantly, they have changed the way brands engage with customers and enhance their services.

Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have altered the playing field. These immensely popular “microblogging” sites now empower everyday consumers to review, rate, question, comment, praise – and even complain about – products and services to a vast audience, immediately and effectively.

You may not think your company is actively involved with social media, but it is. Your company relies on customers. Customers who are connected to social media now have a powerful and very public voice. What they say about your business or your brand – positive or negative – has impact and immediacy. Today, businesses need to know how their brand is being discussed online and be able to react to those insights accordingly.
Regardless of whether you use Twitter or maintain a Facebook page or have a regularly updated blog, chances are that your company name is already being talked about. If so, the question is: is the buzz about your brand good or bad? If you’re not being talked about, then the question is: why not?

And even if you do have a presence in social media, are you using it to listen and improve your customer relationships? Or are you just…talking?

If you don’t know what Facebook is, then you haven’t really been online in the last few years. What started out as a small online Harvard University student site in 2003 has mushroomed into a global phenomenon. Love it or hate it, either way you can’t avoid it. The fact is Facebook now has over 500 million active users in more than 180 countries worldwide (and in at least 70 different languages). It is the Internet phenomenon that brought social networking into the mainstream. The ability to publish personal updates, photos, videos, notes and information online – and comment on what friends in your network have posted – quickly turned what was once passive sharing with others into real-time, interactive dialogue.

Whether you or your company is an active user of Twitter or not, it’s safe to assume that you or your marketing department has heard of it. Twitter is an on line communications platform that allows users to share instantaneous “tweets” – mini messages limited to 140 characters or less – about anything and everything they encounter during the course of the day.
With well over 100 million users who file more than 1 billion “tweets” daily, chances are something has been said about your brand, company, product or service somewhere. In fact, Twitter Search is now the second most used search engine on the Internet. Bite-sized though they may be, informative tweets are immediate, mobile (because of their diminutive length, most people tweet from their mobile devices) and location specific, which make them an invaluable resource for other Twitter users in the same locale. Users often accompany the tweets with photos taken on the spot, geo-tags (such as a Google Maps location) and links to relevant web sites (like a company’s home page).

Facebook and Twitter are arguably the two main players in a social media landscape that is already changing rapidly.

Now, new location-based social networks (such as Foursquare, Yelp, and Gowalla) that allow users to “check in” to locations via GPS enabled smart phones – then recommend, rate and share that information with others in their network – are poised to become the next big wave in social media. As more and more vocal consumers look to their mobile phones for up-to-the-minute information about products and services, it is becoming increasingly important for companies, large and small, to stay current with social media trends to remain relevant.

So, what can your company do to make the most of this tangled web of social media conversations? What should you do?

If anything, just listen. Listening is the essential part of any conversation, and in today’s marketplace companies of all sizes can benefit by being aware of what, if anything, customers and potential customers alike are talking about.

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