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Social Networking: What Small Business Marketers Should Do Now

Nov 7, 2007
I'm sure you've heard a lot about social networking and wondered whether you should participate. Companies like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, are talked about in endless marketing articles and hyped by the media. The phenomenon is huge. eMarketer predicts that ad spending on social networks will reach $2 billion by 2010.

But, as a small business owner, you need to maximize your time and effort. Is there something for your small business here? To make the most of this trend you need to consider the following:

1. How does social networking apply to a small business?

Social networking is a way of interacting with others online. Your communication doesn't have to be located on a particular platform or site to be considered social networking. It's a way to find others to interact with in a more direct way. It's not like an ad that you put up on a search engine site. It has your voice and your specific style at the heart of it. Of course, there are specific social networking sites available, but you don't have to sign up to one of them to do social networking. As the trend continues you will begin to see the features commonly seen on a social site integrated in most websites.

2. What if I don't feel completely confident about trying social networking?

When you read about people making great connections and getting referrals from their social networks, it's important to remember that networking is not usually a skill you are born with. Yes, there are those who can jump into any social situation and make it a success, but the majority of business people need to learn networking skills. And the truth is, they may never be fully comfortable. If you feel this way, start slowly. The bottom line for anyone who networks is to start with the idea that you want to meet and add value for others. When you meet like-minded individuals, you'll see how easy it is to build a network. Everyone will have a focus outside themselves which makes for more creative exchanges.

3. What specific ways can I participate now?

If you don't have a lot of time to devote to social networks, you don't need to jump into anything too time consuming. A business network like LinkedIn might be a good fit to start. There you can network with others, answer questions and show off your expertise without spending hours.

Some other things you can do that don't require a personal page on a networking site are:

-Distribute information to forums and message boards about your business

-Learn about competitors by reading other people's exchanges

-Read blogs and ask questions that will draw others to answer

-Comment on a new book and ask the author a question

-Ask an expert who is not well known to be a guest blogger on your site to kick start their blogging

Anything you can do to start meeting people who care about the same topics you do, is a great way to get started without spending all your time chatting online.
About the Author
Stephanie Diamond a 25 year marketing professional is experienced in building profits for online businesses. As Marketing Director for AOL she created products that generated millions of dollars. Contact her at her online marketing agency www.digmediaworks.com and check out her blog at www.marketingmessageblog.com
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