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Yes, you can use social networking as a marketing tool, but……

Marketing, Design & PR, SuzySays No Comments »

I was sent a StartUps blog on online social networking to read and couldn’t help myself fill in the gaps.  I believe it is really important that people starting out using the medium don’t just see it as just `another marketing tool’, and that it would help if such articles made it much clearer why it is so very different form many conventional marketing methods.

There is an essential ingredient to making online social networking a productive use of your time to boost your business; it is to be authentic.  Yes, you need a strategy and to know how best to use your limited time, but I believe that if you are prepared to BE your brand – not hide behind it – and represent the ethos and integrity of your brand in everything you say and do (even if that will not always make you popular), then online social networking is going to benefit you more than you might think.

People will only listen to what you say online if they have gradually developed a respect for your opinions and most of all, your contribution.  If you offer useful resources and opinions rather than trying to `sell’, then you will gain `followers’.  If you just pitch all the time and don’t share anything of yourself, then people will have less interest in you.

When I tweet on Twitter or send out a blog, I don’t bare my soul or divulge everything that is going on in my business or my life – but I certainly share a great deal more than I would networking at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or at a womens’ business networking event.  There are plenty of people who use online social networking as an extra `marketing tool’, and good luck to them.  But I find myself drawn more to those people who have something to say, something to share, and who interest me.  It is only at that point that I become interested in what their business is.

I believe the most useful lesson I have learned from online social networking is that you can’t make people `buy’ from you, even if what you offer is for free and really really good.  What you can do, is be useful and enjoy interacting with other people and being part of a growing community.For a single mum working from home, the ability to do what businessmen have done over the ages – build trusted relationships within a social setting – is what the internet allows me to recreate to some extent.  It also allows me access to many clever minds who are often able to point me to resources and ideas that would otherwise be difficult for me to discover for myself.

I can thank for being the first to open my eyes to online social networking and for encouraging me to start my first blog  Both my businesses now use blog software to interact with users and to reinforce the integrity of my brands.

But the real reason for taking time to network online is…..  it’s really really great fun!  Such interesting people, so much to talk about, so much to learn.  Communities survive because people interact within them, and that’s what makes them successful.  And fun.