There is a lot of confusion over social media networking/marketing. If you partake, are you networking or marketing? Is Twitter a social media networking site for individuals and social groups or is it used by businesses for marketing. The same goes for Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Biznik.
The answer is yes to everything. All of these sites are used and abused by individuals, businesses, pressure groups, politicians and more. As a tool becomes available it gets used and when it’s ‘free’ it gets used by a lot of people… as it should.
To say ‘No Business Should Be Involved in Online Social Networking’ is just plain wrong. It should be used in combination with social media marketing. Biznik (a business oriented social media site) is a prime example of how to combine social media networking WITH social media marketing.
Biznik has the mix of networking and marketing in balance. Businesses can shamelessly promote and market their latest offerings while benefitting from the SEO that is inherent in the system. They can write articles that increase the awareness and understanding of the business environment they inhabit. It is right for businesses to be involved in both social media marketing and networking. Done right, networking instills trust.
Biznik members (both paying and free) have the opportunity to evaluate other members’ products and services through their promotions and profiles; as well as getting an understanding of the ‘person’ behind the business through their articles and posts. The benefit extends outside of Biznik too. You don’t have to be a member to find a product or service that is on offer through the Biznik environment. Just go to Google/Yahoo/Bing and search for what you’re looking for. If a Biznik member has written about it in an article, their profile, promotion, event or post… chances are it’ll be on the first page of search results.
Bizniks are encouraged to hold networking events and workshops, both physical and virtual (online). Hundreds of Bizniks meet every week in coffee shops, hotels, meeting rooms, convention centers and in ‘the cloud’ (webinars, chat rooms, conference calls, Instant Messages and more).
Many people (including me) have 2 Facebook accounts; one primarily for family and friends and the other for business connections. Just because Facebook is the number one social media site doesn’t prevent it from being used for business. You cannot ignore the vast communities that have grown out of these environments.
The same holds true for virtual online worlds. Take ‘Second Life’ for example. Second Life is an online game where you create an avatar (a virtual representation of yourself) and wander around a virtual world making friends and interacting with others. You can earn virtual money and engage in business activities. That virtual money can be exchanged for real money but can also buy online (virtual) products and services.
Second Life is a virtual world built around social networking and big business has gotten involved big time. Major companies have bought virtual real estate and ‘set up shop’ in this virtual world. Reporters wander around interviewing virtual people; Dell, IBM and others have virtual office buildings and stores. In the world of FREE, there’s always business and networking ensues.
The great thing about FREE is that there is no risk. If it doesn’t work what have you lost? You try it but understand what you’re doing but good content and participation is vital. The old maxim of garbage in / garbage out still applies.
Marketing has shifted focus considerably over the past few years. There are plenty of business people who were marketing their services effectively but are now finding the effectiveness of that marketing has diminished due to the nature of the researching and buying habits of modern customers.
Those business people who ignore (or are unaware of) promoting their services through interactive online communities will find that what they knew about marketing has lost a large degree of relevance. An advert in yellow pages says a whole lot less than a well written blog post with a series on comments from happy customers.
The business owner has to, as never before, think like his customer. What is the customer searching for, where is he searching, how is he making his buying decision and what are his existing customers saying about him.
Google has created a multibillion dollar company built around FREE. It has huge data centers around the country constantly scanning for new content; indexing and updating its results so that you can type in what you’re looking for and have results immediately presented. You can choose from sponsored links and search results. You can click on a website or a blog post and more often than not, will see Google Ads appears that are relevant to the search results. You need to be part of those results… and the social media / blogging environment is the best way to get there.
The good news is that all of this technology to get you noticed is free. Biznik, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg etc are all free. You can often upgrade your membership and get additional features but at the very least you have to be part of them. They have SEO clout by their expertise and sheer presence on the web which in turn gives you additional clout. Develop good content, regularly update and you’ll move up the search engine ladder. Network and market well and you’ll continue up.
© 2010 Christine Ely