You may have heard of one or more of the following: MySpace, Second Life, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Spoke, Sales Spider, Classmates, and Xing. There are so many of these websites that you need to keep a scorecard. In fact according to Wikipedia the list is well over one hundred in total. What all of these networks have in common is a shared on-line community.
Maybe it's the word "social" that makes us all think that there is no business to be had here. But the truth is, social networks are great places to let those who know you, and those who discover you, learn more about what you do. It's no different than joining a Golf and Country Club to network while enjoying the game.
I'll give you a couple of examples of experiences I have had. I recently joined FaceBook and Xing. I filled in my profile on both without telling things that I felt were too personal to reveal to the virtual world. I posted my website. I posted this blog. I posted a picture of me at the piano with my dog, Maya. I put a caption with it that said, "two things that are important to me other than my work and family, music and my dog."
People who I had never met responded to that picture and caption. Some sent me pictures of their dogs. Some contacted me to talk about their love of the piano. One of them asked to learn more about my business to see if I could be of assistance to them. How neat is that?
I also posted in my profile that I new telecommunications and that I was a history major with a degree in Islamic Studies. That led to another contact from a person who told me that her husband's background was history as well and that she and he lived in the country and were trying to determine what technology to use to get data to their farm house. They were far from any cable provider and were looking at point-to-point or satellite. Could I share my opinion?
I was able to help them make a buying decision. And in that process I also found out that her business was an on-line one and I visited her website. That gave me an opportunity to show her my skill set as a web content specialist and copywriter. Again, how neat is that?
There is another good reason to participating in social networks that can prove invaluable to your web marketing. When you join a network and put your website or blog links in your profile you are making yourself more visible to search engines. That has a huge added benefit when someone is looking for the kinds of services or products you provide.
This week I attended a trade show in Toronto focused on computer networks. One of the speakers talked about this very subject and led an interesting debate with people in the audience. I was surprised at how many young people in the audience with their own businesses were skeptics about the value of social networks. They separated the social networks from their business web presence. All of them belonged to one or more social networks and they all shared lots of personal information on these sites. They did chat, swapped pictures, posted even embarrassing information about themselves, but didn't see the business value of the community in which they were daily players.
One person at the conference made a very interesting observation. When you are in business and on the Internet, those people who may do business with you will Google you. If your social network sites come up and you have inappropriate posting there could be consequences to your business.
So is there value as a business person in joining and using social networks? Absolutely, but here are some take aways from this posting:
- You have to go into these networks with a plan. Put information on your profile that will serve you best. A picture of you drunk with a beer in hand is not a smart posting.
- You have to keep the information on your social network sites up to date. The more times you make changes the more visible you are to those who have links to you.
- You have to link whenever possible your social network sites to your business web presence. The more links you create to your other web locations will yield better search engine results.