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Social Networking as a Business Development Tool

Marketers are experimenting with using the Social Networking sites for proactive marketing through building targeted niche networks and business development communities.  As a result, Social Networking has become as much a part of your corporate brand as your website.  Not sure Social Networking is right for your organization?  See Top Ten Reasons to Utilize Social Media as a Marketing Tool.

 

Like traditional networks, online social networks must be built on trust and value to be effective.  You can not replace the credibility or reputation lost if you fail to use them correctly.  So how does an organization build their brand using Social Networking that will bolster their image and generate opportunities?

 

Brand Image

 

The roots for social networking are deeply embedded in sharing a personal life with friends and family but can be manipulated for an organization as a tool to build reputation and relationships with clients, peers and vendors.  Word of caution, you will want to be as protective and concerned for you Social Networking content as you are your website.  Text should replicate the voice of the website while pictures uploaded should match the style.  In a sense, this is the spot light to share your organizations “personal” life and you still want that image to shine with professionalism and an allure for your audience.  For more information on branding see Building a Social Network Brand Image for your Company

 

Relationship Building Networks

 

Twitter and Facebook are probably the most popular and abundantly used Social Networks for relationship building.  The audience demographic of Facebook is evolving from being focused on college kids to becoming a place for adults with an excess of 400 million users.  Twitter is a great tool for keeping those who follow you up to date on opportunities that they may be interested in and it reaches an audience of a little over 75 million users.

 

Facebook is a powerful tool for maintaining relationships in “meet space.”  You meet somebody at a conference and add them as a friend on Facebook.  Now you can follow their news feed, maybe discover common interests or otherwise find some basis to connect with them.  In addition, Facebook has become a necessary tool to reach out to potential customers and managers that make up this emerging job force.  Remember the students who started using Facebook four years ago; well they have graduated into young professionals that still use Facebook to maintain contact with peers.  Twitter on the other hand, lends easily to capturing your brand image of your website and really becomes a sounding board for the company and not the individual.  With a little effort you can customize your Twitter page to visually mimic your website, including providing important contact information to your followers.

 

There are a few pitfalls with these relationship build Social Networking sites.  The downfall of Facebook is there does not seem to be a way to separate professional from personal contacts.  Therefore, when building and interacting with your Facebook page you may want to create a professional page that speaks only from your professional branding and marketing image.  The challenge with Twitter can be the content of what gets posted on your Tweets.  Each time you post a Tweet, think back to the voice you want to portray for your brand image.  The content should be relevant and professional but sometimes you can give your followers a treat with appropriate motivational pieces or humor.  If you need advice on how to create content for your Social Networking profiles, please see Opening the Lines of Communication through Social Media.

 
Professional Networks

 

The most popular Professional Social Network is LinkedIn, which works well as a way to connect and keep casually in touch with a broader network of professional people at arm's length.  The beauty of LinkedIn is that the environment was created for professionals so the tone is professional to start with.  When building a Social Network, it might be easier to start with a LinkedIn account and build a professional image.  Once completed, you can transition that same professional tone to the other Social Networks.

 

While LinkedIn cannot replace the value of face to face contact, it is an effective tool for intelligence gathering, knowledge management and informal surveying.  One of the highlights of the LinkedIn format, is the ability to ask people to recommend your services or products and the ability to post this recommendation for all within your network to view.  In addition, you will benefit and be able to develop your network through the unique linking of profiles that LinkedIn is known for.  With their vast 45 million plus population, that is a ton of linking!

Industry Specific Social Networks

 

With a enormous number of Industry Specific Social Networks available on the World Wide Web, I am going to limit this discussion to a few that I find most conducive to the role of relationship building.  Each one of these Social Networks is built on a platform similar to Facebook, in that the focus is on the individual and not the company.  Therefore, you may want to revisit your Facebook account to set the tone for your profile to ensure once again you are carrying along with you a uniformed brand image and tone. 

 

Dealer Elite (www.dealerelite.net) is a niche media for dealerships and their associated supporting companies.  Membership is free but limited to individuals that fit the requirements of this niche.  Within this dealership centric social network, there are opportunities to connect with other members, join special interest groups and stay up to date on issues that affect the automotive industry. 

 

Automotive Digital Marketing (www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com) is another niche media that caters to the automotive industry in which memberships is also free but required to participate.  The focus of this site is geared towards Marketing, Advertising and Internet Sales.  There are forums available within this media to share strategies and tactics concerning dealership business development. 

Time Saving Social Networking Tools

 

When sharing the benefits of social networking as a business development tool with my peers, I am often met with the rebuttal of not having enough time to manage all the pieces of the puzzle.  I will admit that setting up each account/profile takes time, but I do have a solution for managing these tools once they are set up.  There are a variety of tools that will allow you to post to various social media from a single update.  Often this software will  provide a scheduling tool that will allow you to preset releases for a day, week or month in advance.  From a marketing standpoint, there may also be statistics and reporting that will allow you to monitor the level of success you are having with your Social Networking activity.  My favorite tool for simple non-evasive task management that requires a minimal investment of time is SocialOomph

 

Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

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Tags: Brand, Branding, Development, Facebook, LinkedIn, Marketing, Networking, Performance, Reputation, Results, More…SEO, SMO, Selling, Social, SocialMedia, Stephanie, Twitter, Young

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