Reaching Customers Through Social Networking
In today’s internet-driven environment, it’s often hard for businesses to sort through the new social media that have sprouted across the business landscape. Facebook, Connexions, Friendster and other sites that were initially limited to college students and singles have now barreled into the business environment. Every major business and organization now has a Facebook page or is blogging or Twittering on their website.
All business owners would be well-advised to look at their options and use one of the available resources. It’s similar to the decision many companies made to invest in a website just a decade ago. What was once optional has now become a necessity. Although it may be tempting to be cautious when investing hard-to-come-by dollars in this economy, there is no doubt that the use of social networking sites has become a great resource for all businesses.
At a minimum, a social networking site allows businesses to reach new and old customers, employees, vendors and other related companies. At best, these sites allow businesses to have conversations with their most important constituents online and on a regular basis. Jumping onto the social networking bandwagon can be overwhelming at first, so here are a few dos and don’ts to consider.
Some of the most popular social networking sites are: LinkedIn, Facebook, Tribe.net, Ryse, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Entrepreneur Connect, PartnerUp, and Ecademy . Take some time (or better yet, hire a professional) to review the sites to decide which ones are best suited for your needs.
You will need to determine your target audience and your goals before proceeding. If you are trying to connect to customers, a MySpace account might suit you. If you are trying to find other professionals who might refer clients to you, LinkedIn might be the best site. Facebook is a great example of a site where you can advertise to customers, create a profile of your business for referrals, and invite people to special events.
Employees and Customers
Networking sites have also been set up to encourage communication with customers or between employees. Some of your employees or customers may be talking about you or your business online anyway; you might as well bring the conversation into the company and listen to what they have to say.
These sites also allow businesses to respond directly and promptly to criticism and comments from their most important constituents. Since the internet has driven many employees into their homes or client’s offices, a networking site also allows a company to create a virtual “office” for daily interaction. For example, some businesses are now relying on Facebook as much as email for company-wide messaging.
As much as things change ?
Social networking is not very different from the traditional face-to-face meetings; it still takes time and resources to achieve results. Although most networking sites are currently free, it will not be long before they change to a subscription mode, so companies should be ready to pay for these services in the near future.
Networking still requires businesses to invest money and people to develop the message and get it out to the public in a professional and timely manner. As the matter of fact, timeliness may be more important than ever before. A “tweet” must be almost instantaneous to be effective. Who would have thought that 24 hours may be too long to respond to something? Organizations may find that they need to adjust their approval process and allocate 24-hour personnel to monitor and respond quickly to activity on these sites. Networking in any environment is an interaction of individuals, so make sure your company has the resources available to interact and respond on the sites that you have set up.
While the potential to reach a larger community is great, your company’s message will likely be competing with many others, so innovation and creativity are still important. Just like other types of networking, results take time and need to be monitored for effectiveness. You also may not want to limit yourself to one form of social networking. The more places your company can be found on the internet, the better chance a potential customer will come across you.
Social networking is a great opportunity to show your and your company’s personality. Just like anything else in business, you need to plan, research, decide and log on.
SONJUI L. KUMAR is a founding member and partner in Kumar Pathak, LLC. Her areas of practice include general corporate law, complex commercial transactions, and trust and estate planning.
NEEL SHAH is a founding member & partner of Kumar Pathak, LLC. His areas of practice include Business Law, Real Estate Law, Trust & Estate Planning (including Asset Protection & Business Succession planning.
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