Have You Taken The Social Networking Plunge?

.tags Everyone is talking about social marketing and its exponential growth online. The Conference Board, a leader in economic research and analysis, recently published a survey showing that forty-three percent of respondents report that they use a social networking site, almost double the rate from one year ago.

Respondents listed their most popular sites as

Facebook, used by seventy eight percent.
MySpace, used by forty two percent.
LinkedIn used by seventeen percent.
Twitter used by ten percent.

Does it really make sense for a business to use a social networking site, essentially a site where people put up pictures of their kids and dogs and tell people that they are on the way out for a latte, to peddle pottery, electronics and fashion? If yes, how does it work?

According to businesses who have taken the plunge, social marketing can be very effective because it presents different opportunities. For example, your customers can get to know you as the business owner, which is an enormous help in developing the trust needed to buy online. Social marketing also spring boards off Internet users need to interact and have a more active role in everything they do, especially in purchasing or looking for quality and value. Finally, given the widespread use of social networking sites, this form of marketing can potentially reach many people that may be missed with traditional organic search or pay per click strategies.

The interesting problem that social marketing also poses is that, for all of the exposure and interaction and reach it provides, there is the downside of exposure and interaction you have to be fairly good at it or instead of drumming up new business, you may discourage people who do not feel the love in the way they hoped they would when they got more up close and personal with your business.
As a business owner, you need to make a couple of decisions. First, is the business that you are in conducive to social marketing? Now many would say that every business is conducive to social marketing because you can always use this technique to introduce the people behind the business. But, it is still a legitimate question, especially as you consider the methods available to you. If, for example, you sell products that help with an uncomfortable subject such as adult incontinence, you are less likely to find people who want to post a picture of your latest product, even if it is truly a quality of life booster.

Second, can you or someone in your business present the right face to the public? If you open a Face book page, you are really giving people a glimpse of who you are as part of your strategy. Not every business owner is comfortable with that prospect. In fact for many, the Internet has allowed them to become entrepreneurs precisely because it removes the face to face interaction that many people would rather avoid. You still do not have to shake hands with your customers but they will want to know something about you and how you run your company. Can you do it? Or, if you cannot, is there another person in your company who can become the Internet social face on your behalf?

Social marketing seems to be a great opportunity if you can do it right.