The world of social networking can appear very daunting, especially to managers and business owners who have perhaps heard of Facebook and blogs but have never actually participated in them and don't really know how they work – or more importantly, their value within the marketing mix.
So when Richard MacManus, founder of ReadWriteWeb, a blog that provides Web Technology news, reviews and analysis and has an RSS and email subscriber following of about 275,000, made his 2009 Web Predictions, it came as no surprise that much of them involved social networking . Some of his predictions included iTunes adding social networking features, Facebook signing up to OpenSocial, the introduction of applications that have plug-ins for Twitter and Facebook, and media outlets experimenting with different types of online advertising (with their own social networks perhaps?)
So you know you need to add social networking and social media to your marketing mix for 2009, but how do you get started? Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Digg, Twitter, Ning – the list of sites is endless. But which ones are right for you? It all depends on which ones are right for your customer.
So many choices, so little time .
Just like any other marketing promotion, your social network program needs a strategy that includes measurement of your ROI. Many people are becoming more involved in social networking sites and blogs simply because they've heard of them, like Facebook and MySpace. Instead, you must think about what you want to accomplish here. Are you looking to connect with existing customers? Do you want to find qualified, quality leads? Are you hoping that your existing customers might open the social network door to new opportunities? Will you be interacting and engaging with your customers online or just posting ideas and thoughts? Do you hope to collect new ideas from your social network or will you be expected to be the think tank of the group? Once you've determined the reasons why you want to incorporate social networking into your marketing plans, the next step is to join a few.
Creating your profile.
Clicking into a site like Facebook or LinkedIn can be a bit intimidating at first. You have no "connections," (people who view your profile or who you have found to connect with) your profile is bare, and you're wondering why anyone would want to connect with you online. Take some time to go through the profile section of the site.
Remember, think about whom you want to connect and network with. Then tailor your profile so that the customers that you want will find you. Do you want to engage with groups who are looking for innovative technology? Will you be the leader of a group who offers tips and strategies for the latest in CRM technology? What makes you a Super VAR? By reading your profile, a customer or new lead will know immediately based on what you write.
Making the Connections.
Now is the time to start searching for people you know within the network. This will give you the opportunity to explore the site with people you know and trust. Allow yourself to feel comfortable with the way the social part of the network works. Remember, everyone was a newbie once, so make connections with those who can help you out at the beginning. LinkedIn is a site geared toward making business connections. Twitter allows you to follow someone or be followed. Facebook and MySpace offer community atmospheres. You'll be amazed at how many people you will encounter that are interested in the same things that you are. Search for people of like mind and ideas.
Just like at a party or 4th of July picnic, you'll start chatting with someone and who knows where the conversation will go. Social networking is simply an amazing marketing tool to foster current customer relationships and find new ones. Who are you linked to?