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Social networking through Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, LinkedIn, and other sites has exploded and many companies are wondering whether it should be a part of the marketing plan. The answer is “yes” but with some caution. You can spend an enormous amount of time and effort on social media business marketing without a lot of return unless you approach social networking with a carefully planned strategic approach. Some points for consideration:
All the networking sites work in a similar fashion. Users create a profile page and then declare that other users are their “friends” and link from their profile page. Some allow “group” pages for affinity groups, sharing media, or even custom applications that tap into the social network data. You are able to post pictures to your profile and share personal information including “what you are doing right now.”
For companies that are primarily looking to establish contacts to sell goods and services, Twitter and LinkedIn are better choices than Facebook. Both Twitter and LinkedIn tend to attract more professionals and there are opportunities to give and get recommendations for your business. LinkedIn is heavily used by job seekers and headhunters and can be valuable if you are looking for employees or a new job. Bebo.com is a site that coordinates the other networking sites for easier management.
Facebook tends to be more of a friendship site and attracts a lot of young people. It is currently the largest social-networking community, with more than 175 million people sharing personal information. It is sometimes described as the 21st century equivalent of hanging out at the mall. Unfortunately, it has also become prime hunting ground for scams and malicious software spreaders. The cyber crooks steal personal information such as grandparents and pet names to try as passwords for personal accounts. Hackers also try to infect software with malicious codes and information.
Another networking site, www.sohobiztube.com is specific for business. According to Tracy Coenen, fraud expert and co-owner of HadaMax.Inc., a web site development company, Sohobiztube.com is more of a business-to-business site. Coenen states, “This site allows individuals to build networks that are also connected to the company so that deeper relationships can be built. It has the advantage that if the employee leaves the company, the network stays with the company.” While an individual manages the site, the company also has access to it and can replace the contact if the employee moves on.
Sohobiztube has several different levels of participation depending on how aggressively you wish to promote your business. The basic level is free but with a relatively inexpensive upgrade of $12 per month, you can load video, audio and other information to your site. There are additional upgrade options available but this basic upgrade will be adequate for most businesses.
Regardless of the sites you choose for your social networking, it is important to think carefully before you start posting. It is recommended that you segregate personal and professional when you are networking. If you want to use Facebook or MySpace to connect with friends, don’t also have business contacts on that list. Even if you are cautious about your postings, your “friends” may make some public comments that you would rather not have business associates see.
Remember that cyberspace reaches millions of people. No matter what sites you join, millions of people will have access to your information. Don’t put pictures up that don’t reflect you positively (think Michael Phelps). Some employers have told me that they routinely check FaceBook for information on any job applicants. If there is questionable material on the site, they ask the potential employee about it or simply put their application at the bottom of the pile.
Don’t put too much personal information on the sites. No one needs to know your mother’s maiden name or your favorite pet. This information allows easy access for identity theft and hackers.
With a little time and effort you can make social networking work for you and your business. It’s not a question of whether you should jump in, just where and how.
About Barbara Bartlein
Barbara Bartlein is The People Pro. She presents keynotes and training and is an expert in workplace culture. Her new book, Energy Suckers-How to Deal With Bullies in the Workplace is now available. Visit her site for more information.