Applying Social Networking to Your Business

CompuKol
Michael Cohn CEO, CompuKol Communications LLC

Posted on August 25th 2014

Applying Social Networking to Your Business

When it comes to social networking, there are many individuals who think it is defined as online friendships or online relationships. While these types of relationships are the most common, did you know that social networking is also used for business?  In fact, that was originally how social networking began.  If you are a small business owner, especially one that operates an online business, there is a way that you can use social networking sites to your advantage.

Acknowledging the need to connect with others to grow and expand a business may seem like common sense. Cultivating business relationships and interacting with other small businesses is often mutually beneficial and should not be underestimated. Social networking websites are actually like a community. They allow Internet users to connect with and communicate with each other.

Associations and trade organizations are great places to meet individuals. Usually, organizations have a common theme, and it is clearly implied that all members participate to improve themselves and their businesses.

Whether it is a chamber of commerce or a trade association, members have common problems, issues and concerns. By sharing issues and resolutions online, members can benefit from the experience of others. Many business owners participate in organizations, not only to network but also to hopefully circumvent some of the pitfalls encountered by other small businesses–learning from others.

Networking tips

Many trade organizations provide forums for networking. In some cases, these might be private, online newsgroups, casual meetings, or even professional events with speakers. In order to take full advantage of these social networking opportunities, consider these tips.

  • Who you know: It is often not who you know, but who they know. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone ignore another person who is clearly a beginner only to learn that the “beginner” is the brother or friend of a contact they’ve been trying to meet for weeks.

  • Honesty: Be honest. Pretending to be something that you are not, or implying you can deliver a product or service that is outside of your ability, will foster an environment of distrust and potentially harm your reputation. Keep in mind that networking is viral and if promises are not kept, word will spread. Establishing yourself and your business as an honest, reputable company is key.

  • Professional: Keep conversations strictly on business topics. In a business environment, it is important to focus on safe, non-emotional topics. The last thing you want to do is alienate or offend a potential client because of an outspoken view on a controversial topic. There is a time and a place for everything and discussing political views or cultural issues is not a generally accepted business topic. Bearing that in mind, it is also important to be aware and sensitive to cultural differences. The Internet has opened doors to a global market and respecting cultural differences is critical to establishing strong business relationships in the global marketplace.

  • Socialize: Now is not the time to be silent. Whether you participate in social business events or monitor trade forums, it is critical that you participate. Participation will help you distinguish yourself in your industry. Attempt to remember individual personal details and foster introductions among others in the industry.

  • Positive: Stay positive. It sounds simple, but it will really impact how others view you. If you are constantly negative and pointing out the flaws in others, it will reflect on how others view you. Presenting the best and most positive business experiences will enhance your image.

  • Help: Provide genuine assistance to others. Whether or not they are able to reciprocate, networking is viral and it is vital. Helping others will establish you as a useful member of your business community and will endear you to others. If you are unable to help an individual, refer them to someone who can.

  • Research:  A little research goes a long way. Be sure to research people and companies in your business community. Understanding their common goals and interests will build topics for discussions.

Benefits of joining a specialty social networking site

If you are looking to join a social networking website that is more focused on creating friendships or partnerships between Internet users that have the same interests, you will want to focus on social networking websites that have a particular focus. Often, these websites are known as specialty social networking websites. Online, you should be able to find a number of these specialty social networking websites. Many focus on important issues or topics.

When it comes to many specialty social networking sites, many people want to know what sets them apart from the rest. Honestly, it is the community. The difference between specialty social networking sites and traditional ones is that you will automatically be paired with hundreds, if not thousands, of other Internet users who share the same interests, views, or beliefs as you.

Another one of the many benefits to joining a specialty social networking website is that you are, in a strong sense, safer than those who are members of other networks. Not all, but a large number, of specialty networking sites require activation before joining the site. Before activation can occur, many Internet users are required to state their reasons for wanting to the join the network or they may be required to fill out a small questionnaire, often pertaining to the social network in question. In many cases, this will help to determine whether an Internet user really has an interest in the topic focused on by the network in question.

As previously mentioned, specialty social networking websites allow you to automatically be paired with a group of individuals who share the same beliefs, views, and interests as you do. This means that you don’t have to spend hours researching a person or speaking with them, just to learn what they are or are not interested in. Essentially, this enables you to jump right in and start building business relationships, almost as soon as you are granted access to the site that you have chosen.

Using social networking sites to promote your business

The goal of most business owners is to make money. This often results in the selling of a particular product or service. However, to sell that product or service, business owners need to alert the general public.  Customers cannot buy a product or a service if they do not know that it exists.  That is why, as a business owner, you need to advertise your business.

When it comes to advertising, there are many business owners who literally cringe.  Are you doing this now?  There is a good chance that you are because many advertising methods cost money. As a business owner, you want to make money, not spend it, right?  Unfortunately, if you believe that all forms of advertising take money, you are sadly mistaken. Although you may have to spend money to make your business what you want it to be, there are ways to promote your business and the products or services that you sell without having to spend a lot of money, or any.

Although social networking websites are traditionally focused on those that would like to make online friends or develop online relationships, there are networking sites that are designed for business owners. Those websites will not only allow you to share your business information with other business owners but it will also allow you to develop close relationships with those who share an interest that is similar to yours. Essentially, this means that you could not only learn valuable business information but you could also walk away with a new business partner, a new client, or a new friend.

By joining a social networking website, especially one that is popular and has a large number of members, you should be able to generate interest in your business, including the products or services that you sell. Who knows, but that interest generated could turn into sales; thus making your social networking experience more than worth it.

Conclusion

Acknowledging the need to connect with others to grow and expand a business may seem like common sense. Cultivating business relationships and interacting with other small businesses is often mutually beneficial and should not be underestimated.

Networking is about building relationships and mutual interaction benefiting both parties. Being proactive and following up, you can have a network of contacts that you will be able to access quickly when you need them. Whether by more traditional means, such as in person or over the Internet, personal networks are essential for furthering your business. Relationship networking is give and take so be sure to help others in your quest for help.

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CompuKol

Michael Cohn

CEO, CompuKol Communications LLC

Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications LLC. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies. Mr. Cohn founded CompuKol Communications to help small businesses and Entrepreneur's distinguish themselves from their competition by building and boosting their visibility, exposure, reputation, trustworthiness, and credibility on the Internet.

CompuKol consults, creates, and implements communication strategies for small businesses to monopolize their markets with a unique business voice, vision, and visibility. Prior to that, Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity.

His expertise includes social media marketing strategies; internet marketing; web presence design; business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.

Mr. Cohn earned a Master’s degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master’s degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.

Mr. Cohn is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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