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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Social Means Socialize: Effective Use of Online Social Networking For Business

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Most of the time when it comes to online social networking and business the advice is things like "You have to be on . . ."  The key word here is 'be'.  Being is about existing, and when's the last time you heard of any business truly succeeding simply because they chose to exist.  Social networking is designed around socializing, but many businesses and professionals don't effectively use these services.  Rather they create accounts or a Facebook page and do very little if nothing with them.  The result . . . little or nothing.

The key to understanding online social networking is to first think of it in terms of real world things we are used to.  Think of a time you went to or were invited to a social event.  You get dressed accordingly.  Probably pack up some business cards to hand out.  And you arrive.  You have one or two options here.  1) You could stand against the wall and nod to people here and there as they go by, or 2) You can get out there, introduce yourself, and truly socialize.  Which one would probably be more effective in that setting?  If you said, "Number 2" you are absolutely right!  Sorry, no prize.  But what most people do with online social networking is the first scenario.  They become the online virtual wallflowers.  The question then becomes how is this type of inactivity online effecting your brand?

Scan me with your smartphone
The next obvious question is how does a business or organization effectively use these online social networking tools for business?  Mostly these tools will be used for marketing purposes with any business or organization.   Seth Godin in a recent blog post summed up how to effectively market anything in a very simple way . . . "The best way to truly learn how to do marketing is to market."  Read the rest of his article and it will make more sense.  I'm constantly testing these services marketing various things on a personal level to see what works.  I look for what peaks people's interest, what gets people talking, things not to discuss or share (i.e. politics), what others are doing, and always looking to see how something could be used maybe in combination to something else as a real benefit (i.e. video, photos, etc.).  One example, is QR Codes.  If you don't know what these are, read my blog on this very interesting topic. Imagine you want to promote your business through Foursquare and offer a special discount for those that 'check in' through the service'.  Why not a  scannable QR code like the one above that automates that for visitors? 

There are several individuals, groups, and businesses locally that are great examples of how they have embraced online social networking for business and organizations using various services like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. in combination.  They are very active, interesting, and gaining great attention.  Here's a few:

On Twitter:

On Facebook

What it is so great about all of these groups and individuals is that there is a focused use of these services, they are consistently active on the services, and they truly engage the community locally and beyond (yes, I'm a Buzz Lightyear fan). 

Tell us how you are using online Social Networking services for your organization or business.  Tell us about your successes.
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