Late last year, Demos, a British think-tank, released a report that concluded that social networking was good for business. The report was more focused on employee usage of social networking sites, but I believe the information applies to small and solo businesses, too.
“The report points out that the value of networking within an economic downturn is perhaps more important than ever,” Robert Ainger, Corporate Director of Orange Business which co-produced the report, told Reuters, “and I believe it could mean the difference between a business collapsing or capitalizing on the tricky conditions.”
Dave Barger, president and chief executive of LunaWeb Inc., a Memphis company that does Web design and Internet marketing, suggests that the back-and-forth conversation that occurs through social networking can lead to ideas about how to improve your products and services, customer service or other aspects of your business.
“Those conversations are going on online anyway, believe me. You want them going on in your foyer,” he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
But you really do need to have a plan when you use social networking for your business. “Social networking just for the sake of social networking isn’t always a good investment” Chelsea Dubey, account executive at RedRover, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “It needs to connect to other elements of your sales and marketing strategy.”
Social networking is a great way to connect with like-minded people. It also provides you a way to communicate with people that might not be using other channels you use to promote your business. It is another form of visibility tool, like PR and advertising.
According to BNET, William Baker, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University, surveyed 1,600 executives and found that firms that rely heavily on external social networks scored 24% higher on a measure of radical innovation than companies that don’t. This implies that social networking, which allows you to connect with people that you can’t connect with through in-person networking, can give you a competitive edge.
Of course, with all this good stuff, there is a price. You have to invest time and make a commitment to your social networking plan. This is a long-term strategy, not an over-night shortcut to success. So, like anything in business, you need to have a plan and then you need to implement and work that plan.