Online social networking has become immensely popular in the recent years, and numerous people are using these sites as an avenue for business marketing. But using online social networking to market your business may backfire. Recently MySpace (a popular social networking site) has gotten a lot of negative attention from the general public due to instances of sexual predators taking advantage of the site.
So how do you make it work for your business? How do you determine which sites to include in your marketing campaign, how to go about it, and what returns to expect? Here are a few things you might want to keep in view.
1. Determine which market type you want to target. Are you marketing to professionals, or to students? You need to be clear of your target market, as well as keep in mind that not all social networking sites are suitable for professionals, and not all sites are suitable for students. For professional networking, sites like Linkedin.com and Apsense.com are great places to start. These sites have specific groups with specific business natures or interests that might be directly related to your product or service.
Sites like Ablewise.com Free Classifieds and Adlandpro.com, which although are not mainstream social networking sites, nonetheless have developing “communities” which are great for networking. It is even easier to market your business in sites like these because these communities are essentially about businesses.
2. It is important to setup your profile as soon as possible, after joining the site. Add a photo of yourself. Provide as many details as possible. The more details provided, the more people will be inclined to trust you. Ensure that a link to your site is provided, and that you tell others what is the nature of your business. Establish a positive reputation and credibility. Get others to trust in your service or product.
3. It is not only important, but necessary as well, to understand how each social networking site function. Promote yourself first as an individual, then your business. Make friends with as many people as possible. Many of these sites are based on individuals, not companies. Blatant marketing or “hard selling” will not work. A “soft sell” approach has to be taken.
Your eventual goal should be to establish your brand and online presence, and to build back-links from popular sites. Write articles and post them on your blog(s) in these sites. This will create awareness and back-links for your products and services as well as make a contribution to these sites. By contributing to these sites, you are not only building value for them, you are building value for you.
4. Continue looking for new avenues to market your products or services. One popular social networking site might have tremendous traffic; but not everyone visits that particular site. There are currently many social networking sites, and these sites all cater to a multitude of interests, topics and natures. Pick a few that are closest in relation to your business.
The ways to promote yourself and your business on social networking sites are unlimited. Just be sure to understand the rules and what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Take special care to avoid spamming, as well as blatant sales pitches that might drive away your target audience.