As a small business owner, you might be wondering what all this talk about "social networking" is all about. Isn't it just about sharing pictures of puppies and telling people what you did on vacation?
Here's a great definition for today's social networks: an online service that focuses on building informal relationships based on common interests, activities or backgrounds. In short, it's the electronic form of the old social club. A place where you can catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances and expand your network of influence. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn't serve drinks.
For businesses, social networks create an opportunity to connect with people. It's often been said that opportunity does not come because of what you know, but rather who you know. If you believe that, than social networking is for you!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting started with social networking.
- You don't have to be on EVERY social network. Start off by targeting a primary network. Ask your employees to find out what networks your customers use most. Ask other business owners which networks they use. Is it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or perhaps an industry specific network like ReverbNation? You might even check out some of your competitors and see where they are focusing their efforts.
- You cannot set it and forget it. Social networking requires an investment of time. Finding people to connect with. Responding to people that connect with you. Sharing your knowledge and experience. Just like anything else in business, it takes time and commitment before you can reap the rewards. It doesn't have to be overwhelming but you do have to be consistent and plan to sow into it regularly.
- Don't be disappointed if you don't have 500+ connections in the first month. It takes time to build a network. Start by telling your customers. Publish your Twitter handle or Facebook page on your website, business cards and advertisements. Make sure all of your employees are connected to the business and ask them to tell their friends. Connect with people or businesses that you do business with. Over time you will build a valuable network of people.
Remember, social networking is not primarily about advertising your goods and services. It's more about building relationships and sharing your expertise with people. I always keep this quote in mind as I believe it really sums up the purpose of social networking very nicely:
"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
Now that you've started building your social network, the next step is to sow into that network. Invest in others and you will reap the rewards. We'll get back to this subject in a future post so check back soon!
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