Social Networking for Business 101

Recently I was giving a speech to a group about creative and inexpensive ways they could grow their business. I call it shoestring marketing and it is something I speak and write about a lot (if you want to know more, you can find a webcast of the topic over at my site under the blue tabs, “Webinars").

While the audience was interested in most of the topics – co-op advertising, overnight radio, pay-per-click and the like – it was the social media segment that drew the most discussion. Mostly they wanted to know how to effectively get started.

It can seem overwhelming, even if you are a savvy small business person who uses the Net to run your business, create and file expense reports, and even if you use Facebook to keep up with friends. Using social networking for business is a different animal altogether.

How do you get your business started with social media? Here’s how:

1. Cast a wide net: I would suggest that the best way to start is to set up accounts at least the big three sites (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and more if possible. If you know of a social networking site related to your industry, set up shop there too for sure. But don’t stop there. The list of choices is long.

It will take some time to set up all of these accounts and it may be something to assign, at least initially, to an assistant or employee. The reason for casting a wide net is that one of the values of social media is that it expands your brand online – the more sites that mention and link to you the better. In addition, more options allow you to figure out which sites fit you best and which seem to offer the biggest payoff.

2. Drill down: Once you are set up online, the next step is to spend some time on at least the big three sites and then drill down and figure out which one you like best. Then, work to master that particular site. Really understanding one of the top sites seems to be the best way to get started for most people. It is kind of like moving to a new city and getting to know your neighborhood before venturing across town.

3. Participate: Social networking takes time. It takes time to learn a site, to build a fan or follower base, and to make connections. But that is the payoff. By participating fully in at least one site, you will meet new friends and colleagues and new business opportunities will appear. But it doesn’t happen automatically. Like in the rest of life and business, the more you put in, the more you will get out.

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