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26 October 2010

Social Media

Social Networks Are Your Friend - How to Successfully Market Your Company Online

For the uninitiated, it would be fair to assume that social networking sites are solely for socialising, but they can be skillfully utilised as a business-boosting tool too. The stigma surrounding the social networking scene has been persistently fueled by a plethora of well-publicised horror stories: busy body employers Googe-ling potential recruits and discovering less-than-desirable evidence of their private shenanigans; party gatecrashers trashing homes thanks to open invitations on Facebook; online fraud scams and internet dating scares. And while it is always sensible to practice discretion online, with diligence the internet can be an invaluable platform for professional interaction.

If you weren't spawned in the dot com era or aren't technically savvy, the World Wide Web can be a daunting place. In this new era of cyber communication, 'tweeting' isn't something that birds do and 'tags' aren't something that dogs wear; just two examples of how the online social phenomenon has infiltrated our society right down to the way in which we speak.

You need only look at the movie box office to appreciate its influence: The Social Network, a film about Facebook - the internet's most ubiquitous social networking site - entered the charts in second place last week with takings of £2.4m.

But you don't have to be clued-up on films or internet lingo to appreciate the significance of social media. Beyond 'tagging' and 'poking' social networking sites are an intelligent tool that can allow you to speak to a wide range of people for free while successfully helping market your product, hire the right people, share professional documents, communicate through various mediums, network with like-minded individuals and dramatically increase your company's profile.

The current crop of Web 2.0 (which refers to a perceived second-generation of web-based communities and hosted services that facilitate collaboration and sharing between users) sites allow people hungry for social interaction in the cyber world to have a near boundless choice for their communal cravings. But before your venture into the virtual world with your business, the first step is to ascertain which social network will work best for you and your business. The possibilities are vast, but a well-tuned online network can enhance your company's profile, so be careful about the information you share in terms of privacy, reputation and brand control. Don't give too much away, but offer just enough to gain attention.

A good benefit of using Facebook for business is its viral effect. If any person becomes a 'fan' of your profile page, a message is sent to all of that person's friends telling them about it, providing a great channel to get your message out to many people over a short period of time.

Twitter is growing with new users at an amazing rate. It allows you to publish short messages through various mediums like instant messaging and mobile phones, and it is great for self-promotion as you can publish a message for your close circle and then capitalise on the attention it then receives from outer circles, and so forth.

LinkedIn has long been seen as the most business-oriented networking site. It is basically a huge database of both job-seeking and working professionals who create profiles to promote their skills, knowledge and experience. These profiles are then promoted through networking and attaining online recommendations that act as references and testimonials to your name.

In the not-too distant future there will no doubt be other sites that will threaten to raise the bar of the current elite of social networks. And while the social networking scene is not for everyone, it is not to be scoffed at. With a little research, an open mind and guidance from socially-savvy advisers, you could open your business up to a whole new world of clientele.

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