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Social Networking for Business Uncovered

Aug 26, 2008
A social network can be defined as any type of community for people with shared interests and activities, who are interested in exploring these interests and activities with others. With the advent of the Internet, social networking sites have allowed individuals and businesses from around the world to connect for this endeavour.

This is obviously the appeal of the Internet to many, as it is in a sense one large group network where people engage in activities of interest which connect them to others and to the products and services they purchase. Social networking sites appeal to consumers of all age-groups and social strata, from the more generalised, generic demographics to ones catering to specific niche interests. Apart from the communities these social networking sites provide, blogs, video and photo sharing are also great ways for individuals to share information.

From a business perspective, it is important to have a presence where your prospective customers are. In 2007, nearly 15 million households in Britain (roughly 61%) had Internet access, an increase of over a million households since 2006 and nearly 4 million since 2002. Additionally, 84% of those with access to the Internet had a broadband connection, up from 69% in 2006. It is therefore imperative that businesses - from small businesses to blue-chip corporations - create an online presence to raise their profile, and marketing via social networks is a powerful supplement to a company website and email.

Marketing to consumers online is different from traditional advertising in that it is targeting active, rather than passive consumers. For example, PPC (Pay-Per-Click) adverts only appear next to organic search results after a consumer has entered a search string into a search engine. This is different to broadcast mediums such as television adverts, which are seen by individuals who are really just looking to watch television programming.

Using social networks to reach consumers is done most effectively by presenting solutions to issues and questions, rather than the solicitation of traditional advertising, as consumers using social networks are usually seeking solutions to things happening in their lives and not looking for a hard sell. Thus, social network marketing should be thought of less as a campaign and more as a long-term investment in your brand.

Some social networks allow companies to join for free, while others charge, and some will also allow you to advertise onsite as well. In all cases, you will do best by taking an active part in a business community which closely matches your own industry and begin offering relevant and useful information and solutions. Long-term, social network participation will improve your online presence, increase revenues and branding opportunities, lead to greater consumer interaction and, if done effectively, will be a cost-effective addition to a successful online marketing strategy.
About the Author
Bian Salins is the Managing Editor of BT Tradespace - an online community where businesses can advertise and sell products & services and everyone has the opportunity to shop, chat and share their opinion.
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