Social Networking for Small Businesses

Though there are different flavors of social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) most work the same way:

1.  You create a profile page with a photo of yourself and some basic information.

2. You "friend" "connect" or "follow" people that you know by inviting them or accepting their invitation.

3. You post content by typing in a status update in the box on your home page, uploading photos, or commenting on other people's posts.

4. There is a news feed on the home page that reports the activity of all of your "friends" "connections" or people you are following. This news feed is where the magic happens. It is like a newspaper reporting only on your connections and reporting about you to everyone else.

One of the reasons social networking is so powerful both professionally and personally is that it creates a structure for connecting people, ideas, and events in a way that wouldn't happen in the physical world.

You probably have a number of different social circles.  Family, friends, co-workers, classmates, church, a hobby group, sports team, book club, etc.  Each of those people know a small portion of who you are--and chances are (unless they are your co-workers)--they have no idea what you do professionally. By posting information about what you do and participate in--you begin to open a window to that world and people who are interested can connect.

For example, one of my connections is a writer who frequently posts what topics she is writing on.  When I know someone with that expertise, I connect them with her.  My friend gets publicity and she gets a source and makes her deadline. The thing is that everyone in her network does this making it very valuable for her.

The bubble tea shop in my neighborhood has a page on Facebook. (I discovered this because someone in my network became a fan and it showed up in my news feed). I frequently stop in when the "tea of the day" is something I've always wanted to try and have attended events they've announced that sounded interesting to me. (Their business is doing very well because I'm not the only one who does this.)

Just yesterday, I posted that I was learning about "augmented reality" (AR) and my daughter's best friend's mom, told me about Esquire magazine this month being an AR issue and I was able to share the link she sent with the rest of my team which helped us with our presentation.

If you are a massage therapist, artist, yoga instructor, or have a band and frequently participate in events or workshops, you can post that information and invite people or simply talk about it in your status.  (You can also post photos after the event and write a recap on it to make people wish they had.)

If you are a business with a physical location, as people in your network "become a fan" or "friend" your business other people in their network who are geographically close can discover you too.  You can also be proactive in this on Twitter and deliberately follow people who are in your geographic location.  To search by geographic location, you simply go to search.twitter.com and narrow the feed to a zipcode.

Social networking takes a bit of time investment to do right.  If you are new to social networking, you can begin by committing an hour once a week, then move to checking it daily.  If you are currently using social networking personally, consider letting the lines blur between the personal and professional so that you begin to create interest in your professional world.

Of course, the best part of social networking is that it is the most affordable--and potentially effective--advertising you could possibly do. And as a small business owner--who doesn't love free!
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall