The term “Web 2.0 Social Media” is generally perceived to include just the elements that I am writing about today. In reality, it is far more. Professional & Social Networking is only a small portion of the total Social Media umbrella as shown in the graphic below. Yet, it is often one of the most visible and talked about elements.
As we have discussed previously in this series, Web 2.0 Marketing is about building communities and leading and/or interacting in the e-conversations taking place in these communities. Professional & Social Networking plays a major role in this activity.
The term “Professional & Social Networking” implies they are two different things. In reality they are the same but some social networking tools are more professional in nature than others. As a business, you will need to use both types if you wish to reach the communities that exist within each.
LinkedIn is an example of a very professional networking tool. There are dozens of competitors like Plaxo, Xing (primarily for Europe), Naymz and more. They are not all the same. Each has unique features that the others may not have. Trying to build a network community is time consuming enough, but trying to build a community in each of these networks is next to impossible. You will need to choose the right one (or two) for you and focus your efforts on that one. I chose LinkedIn for myself because it is the largest (45+ million members and 400,000 groups) and I wanted the features it offers and didn’t want the features it doesn’t offer.
Facebook and MySpace are examples of what I consider more casual social communities. They allow posting of pictures and videos, writing on your “wall”, etc. They build communities just like the professional networking sites. Most businesses using social media have a page on one or more of these types of sites and work to build a community there as well as in what I call a professional network. Security settings allow you to control what is placed on your page and what is not; and who will see it and who will not. Just as with professional networking sites, there are similarities between these two competitors but also substantial differences. Because of these differences they attract different types of people. You will need to determine where your target market hangs out. For many businesses, this includes both professional as well as social networking communities.
Other Important Networking
Twitter is an example of a social networking tool that you can use to build a community and engage in conversations but is quite different from either the professional or social networking tools listed above. There are a lot of misconceptions about Twitter due to the fact that it has changed as it has matured and grown. It is much more than idle chat limited to just 140 characters. As a skeptic myself, I did not become involved with Twitter until just a few months ago. So I decided to experiment with it. I must admit that it has its benefits as I have seen a dramatic increase in traffic to this blog because of Twitter. So how can you not believe when you see the results?
I found an older but relevant video that may help you better understand the value of networking. It does not point out how well it works for marketing, but I think you will get the point.
There are a lot of different philosophies relative to using these networks. As a result, no matter what I recommend, it should stimulate a lot of comments. I would never suggest that anyone’s strategy is wrong for them. You will have to choose what you believe will be best to achieve your objectives.
There are those who believe they don’t have time for social networking but they know they need to do something. Consequently, they continue to invest money on traditional advertising methods and then complain about how it does not work in this economy. They don’t realize that the downturn in the economy today is one of several reasons why the traditional methods are not working. Every company is pushing their sales people to make more cold calls to compensate for lagging sales, revenue, and profits. In response, prospects are becoming irritated by all of these calls and are using gatekeepers and/or voice mail to avoid them. Traditional advertising and sales strategies like cold calling are not enough anymore.
Enter social networking, which can be an effective way to build credibility, trust, and positive relationships, even if they are virtual. As a result of my online professional and social networking I have gained many new friends that I have never met in person and have never even heard their voice. As a result of these relationships, I know that if I asked them to take a look at something, they would do it.
There are also those who will only connect with others whom they have met in person or had some sort of interaction, thereby limiting the size of their community and their access. They don’t realize that it isn’t just about the ones you do connect with but also the people to whom they are connected. Anytime I chat with someone who suggests that social media really doesn’t work, I find that they have very small communities and are going out of their way to keep people out of their community. No wonder it isn’t working for them.
When it comes to networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, I believe it is good to connect with anyone that sends you an invitation as you never know who they know. A few months ago I accepted an invitation to connect from a man in Cincinnati that I did not know. We exchanged a few emails and he put me in touch with a couple of local people that have become important to me. What if I had not accepted that invitation? I have had this happen to me several times. Even with people from other countries.
With limited time to invest in social networking, it does makes sense to be selective about those with whom you choose to invite to connect (as opposed to accepting an invitation from someone else). Of course, you can start with your friends and business acquaintances. After that, I found the best places are “groups” within the social networking site that share the same interest as you. You can even start your own group at these networking sites. Following that, check out the connections or friends of each person with whom you connect. Chances are that many of their connections share your interests (your target market) as well.
There are several things that can help you build communities around your different networking sites. First, you should try to tie all of these sites together in as many different ways as you can. For example, your blog should link to your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook account and your Twitter account. Your LinkedIn profile should include your blog headlines, links to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. And the same with your other networking sites. Tools like HootSuite, TwitterFeed and TwitRobot will automatically “tweet” (as they say) your blog headlines and related links several times when you post a new article on your blog. You will find that each social networking site feeds the others. Plus, the larger your community the more desirable you and your community become.
Next, the big question is whether you will use a single company identity approach where only the company is involved in social media and networking or whether you will empower your employees to use social networking as well. Empowering your employees to use social networking multiplies your results by the number of employees you use. Before employing this approach I recommend that you write a very well defined and descriptive “Social Media Policies and Procedures” document stating how much time they can invest during business hours, their level of authority, and what they are allowed to say and do.
Some employers fear that if their employees put their profiles on these networking sites and build their own communities, they will be more likely to be recruited away. And if they go, so will the communities that they built. If they are underpaid or work in a poor environment this is quite possible.
On the other hand, empowering your employees to solve problems and network with the public makes them happier employees and your customers and prospects happier as well. If you do lose an employee, when recruiting a replacement, make sure you recruit one that brings large communities with them. In fact, social networks are a great place to identify and recruit employees.
When you weigh the risk of employee turnover against the reward of increased business and revenue, I personally would choose the reward and do my best to create an environment where employees will not want to leave.
As with most of the tools in the Web 2.0 Marketing graphic above, these tools are all free.
There is so much to write about each of these tools that I am only scratching the surface in this article even though it is quite a lengthy article. It is my intent that once we get through all of the various elements on the Web 2.0 Marketing graphic I will revisit some of the elements and cover them one at a time in greater depth. If you are interested in Web 2.0 Marketing, you may wish to follow this series by adding your email to my feed. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Those that enjoyed this article, also enjoyed:
Web 2.0 Online Marketing Series – Overview
The Elements of a Web 2.0 Website
Web 2.0 Blogging For Business
Web 2.0 SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Web 2.0 Email Marketing & Autoresponders
Web 2.0 Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Web 2.0 Online Press Releases & Articles
Web 2.0 Forum & Blog Commenting
Web 2.0 RSS Feeds and Widgets
Web 2.0 Video & Podcasting
Web 2.0 Wikis & Open Source Marketing
Web 2.0 Bookmarking & Reviewing Sites
Web 2.0 Affiliate Marketing Programs
Posted by: Mike Clough