Increasing awareness of your products and company is one facet to any successful online business. That facet is made even better when the marketing channels within it offer free traffic.
In the search for more traffic, one can’t overlook the potential that Social Networking Services present.
What Exactly is Social Networking?
Wikipedia defines Social Networking Services like MySpace, Facebook, etc… as follows:
“A social network service focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software.”
The majority of social services are mainly internet based. They provide a way for users to interact with each other through chat, messaging, video, email, and more.
Social Networking Facts
Nielsen/NetRatings published the list of top social networking sites in September 2007 and compared that to September 2006. It looks like this at the top.
Business Week published the following article on social networking sites in their February 2007 Technology section: Social-Networking Sites Open Up
And ZDNet cited Hitwise reporting of social network traffic up 11.5 percent during the period between January and February 2007.
How Can Social Networking Help Grow a Business?
If it hasn’t already hit you after reading the above, let me point out one key element from that definition listed earlier which more closely describes what benefit a social network provides.
In its short form, a social network is a “community of people who share common interests and activities” – and that can include products.
Yeah, so What?
Let me put it to you this way. Wouldn’t it be great if someone told you where you could go to find a large group of people that shared a common interest, and that interest was directly or indirectly related to a product you sold? Wouldn’t you want to run not walk to the nearest location and find out more about these people?
Social networking services provide you with the ability to do just that.
You see, the real value that a social networking audience can provide to your business comes not from purchasing advertising (although if your budget allows, that certainly is not out of the question) to place in front of those users, but from “becoming part of their group.” Become one of them.
Get yourself a profile, get involved in the community of users, make sure your website analytics are “turned on” and begin gathering demographic data (through analytics and research).
Now, watch, track, and group those demographic users into various customer segments as they relate to your business and products.
By targeting those demographic users who fit your market segment, you can promote and bring awareness to your product or brand in a very unobtrusive, polite, almost “helpful” manner.
Don’t “force feed it to them by pushing it down their throat.” That won’t work. It must be done in a helpful, non-invasive manner or it will fail.
By effectively “becoming one of the crowd” and inserting yourself into their market segment, you give yourself the ability to, on a friend to friend level, highlight product benefits which satisfy their individual needs.
Social Networking Benefits
Just a few of the benefits of social networking as a tool for marketing your business include:
- Access to a growing market segment of internet users passionate about the topics they share
- Free source of qualified traffic if your approach is implemented properly
- Fairly easy to spot and pick out various user demographic segments
Marketing Sherpa recently posted a “how to” tutorial listing 11 strategies you can use to market yourself or your business using Facebook. It may be beneficial reading that may help you develop additional strategies for other social networking sites as well.
The article is “open access” to anyone until November 7, 2007 and can be found here:
A Final Word of Wisdom
Social networking, when used properly, can act like a form of viral marketing. Good experiences spread fast through the network having a ripple effect, but be careful. It takes time to build up character and trust. It only takes a few seconds to tear it down.