by Rhonda Abrams as published in the Hartford Business Journal 5/25/2009
In the last few years, an avalanche of new opportunities has cascaded on the Internet in the form of social networking sites. Advantages and limitations of social networking sites:
• Connect with lots of new people, just as with real-life networking.
• Get the word out without an intermediary, such as a pesky reporter or columnist!
• Establish yourself as an expert in a field.
• Stay on top of your field and your competitors.
• Connect with your own customers.
• Can consume a huge amount of time.
• Most connections will never convert to paying clients or customers.
• A zillion of your competitors are out there.
Managing your social networking visibility can be a full-time job — in fact, many companies employ people just to be doing that. But you have a business to run.
So here’s Rhonda’s guide to social networking sites as they relate to your small business.
Twitter: Twitter’s the Internet darling of the moment, allowing users to send very short messages (limited to 140 characters) known as “tweets.” For example, you could choose to “follow” me by searching for Rhonda Abrams. (Twitter doesn’t allow spaces so my Twitter name is RhondaAbrams). I “tweet” about things I think small-business owners would find interesting or sometimes amusing.
LinkedIn: Unlike all the other major social networking sites, LinkedIn is dedicated to helping people connect for business rather than social purposes. It’s also become a major source for posting professional job openings.
Facebook: The heavyweight of social networking in the U.S., Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people you care about and finding people you’re out of touch with.
MySpace: Once the leading social networking site, it’s still a huge draw, especially for teenagers.
YouTube: This site is all about videos, so you may think it has nothing to do with business. But businesses have discovered it’s a great way to provide information to prospects and customers. Why not take some video of the products you sell or of you describing your services (or video testimonials) and easily upload them to YouTube? Then, you can direct prospects to YouTube to check it out.
One thing’s for sure: social networking is here to stay. Most businesses will need to know how to use it.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of “Six-Week Start-Up” and “What Business Should I Start?”My Take
In her full article, Rhonda points out there is an overwhelming amount of sites to keep up with. This "avalanche" has busy business owners saying, "My time is too valuable to chase these sites. Why should I even try?"
My answer to this is, "Because it's the only way to grow. You're facing a technology revolution tax - not levied by a government, but by a rapidly spreading change in the way your customers communicate."
"Right now you're building a new bridge to connect with customers in a whole new, better way. But meanwhile you're maintaining your old bridge with your traditional advertising. So you're paying double - for a while at least.
The added expense in time & money will be a strain on you. But the dividends will come - especially for those businesses who "get it" and are adept at melding social media into their ad mix.