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Building a Business via Social Networks

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
October 4, 2010 Deadline
November 2010 Issue

Building a Business via Social Networks

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a myriad of social networking Internet technologies are reshaping how businesses develop and maintain customer relationships. Just as a Web presence became a standard marketing tool by the late 1990s, a “social network” identity is becoming an essential part of brand development.

Writers, musicians and actors have to be good at self-promotion. Celebrity Twitter feeds are read by millions of loyal fans. Many celebrities also maintain blogs and public accounts on Facebook or MySpace. We can learn from the examples of celebrities, both what to do and what not to do with the power of social networking.

One local mystery writer has turned social networking into an effective promotional tool. Marilyn Meredith, a Springville resident, writes a blog entry almost daily. These entries are on both the business and craft of writing. To see how this Valley writer maintains her “brand” visit fictionforyou.com and select the “blogs” menu.

The ancient (by Internet standards) static website is outdated. A static page on the World Wide Web is similar to a phonebook listing: no one reads it until they need you. By contrast, a blog or community website encourages customers to think about your products or services on a daily or weekly basis.

When “F. M. Meredith” is scheduled to speak at a library or book fair, a blog entry announces her appearance to loyal readers and fellow writers. Because Meredith posts frequent book reviews mentioning other family-friendly authors, readers tend to check her website often. She is not only building her personal brand, but she helps her fans locate authors of similar works.

Businesses need to create more than mere brands: they need to create communities. Thanks to the Internet, one person working from home can create a tight-knit community.

Before using social networks to promote your business or professional career, you should consider how to manage your online brand. The most important advice is to keep any professional social networking separate from your personal online activities. Create accounts that are only for business purposes, including promotional announcements.

You might have to remind friends and family to direct personal messages to your private accounts, but the division is essential. Most famous people on social networks create second or even third online identities that only their friends or family could guess. It is important to maintain your privacy.

Managing your social networks is simple. You do not need to retype and post the same announcements, blog articles or press releases to every social network service. Instead, you can compose the text once and have it automatically distributed to the most popular networks.

The companies behind social networks understand that being interconnected benefits them. It is easy to set up a Blogger or WordPress site to send Twitter announcements when new blog entries are created. You can then set up LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites to distribute any Twitter announcements. No matter which social network customers prefer, you can get your message to them in an instant.

Assume clients will contact you via social networks. If a question is general enough, you can respond publically to help other customers. If a customer has a complaint, you can post a short message letting the customer know you will answer privately. Remember that private e-mails can be copied and pasted for the world to see, so always be as polite as possible, especially on social networks.

I believe in social networking. My wife and I maintain a website, a blog and a Twitter account for our freelance writing. Every week or two, we try to post an article about writing to the blog. The blog software automatically sends a link to the article to our friends and clients via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What is amazing is that we do all of this via a single e-mail message. Either my wife or I can write an article wherever we happen to be. Then, we send the article to our blog, which has a special e-mail address. Once the blog software verifies the message is from one of us, it posts the article to our website and notifies the world there’s a reason to visit our site.

There is no need to know HTML or some other obtuse “markup” code to write the articles. We also don’t have to remember to send an announcement to our readers via a number of social networks. The entire process is painless, yet powerful.

Social networking has always been important to business. Once, this meant the traditional networking represented by business cards and civic organizations. Today, it means being on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Business Tips for Social Networking

Establish “business only” identities focusing on your products and services.
Select online names and addresses that match your business name as closely as possible.
Create meaningful new content at least weekly so clients have a reason to follow you.
Mention clients and other businesses you like and support.
Keep messages clear, concise and positive no matter what.
Overlap content by connecting your social networks for wider distribution.

How to Ruin a Business via Social Networks

Mixing personal notes with business notes diminishes your brand identity.
Writing in “txt” form is usually inappropriate for business.
Posting several times a day overwhelms customers and employees.
Failing to respond to a customer in a public forum conveys poor service.



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