So-called “social” online networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Ryze and Twitter generate a lot of buzz in the press. But can they really be productive business-to-business networks for you — or are they just a waste of time???Consider these issues before taking the plunge:
Fit your business goals to the site. Are you looking to improve networking? Or do you want to drive more traffic to your business or website? Once you determine what you really want from an online network, it’s easier to pick one that will help you accomplish your goals — rather than just signing up because you think you need to jump on the online social network bandwagon.
For example, sites such as LinkedIn focus on networking for professionals. Say you are an active performer and want to network with other people who might be in need of your services. In this case a social network with a professional bent likely will best serve your needs. But if you own a music studio and just want to gain exposure with potential students, a network such as MySpace might be a better fit.
Do your homework. Carefully consider what each site has to offer before signing up. Does it form professional relationships or personal relationships? Are there any costs involved for advanced features? What features does it offer that sets it apart from other sites? For example, you can search for people on LinkedIn based on the “six degrees of separation” concept — when you view someone’s profile, a chart shows you the degrees of separation between you and the person’s profile. Ryze, meanwhile, allows you to join specific networks related to your industry, interests and location.
If one of your main goals is to increase exposure with potential customers, investigate what your current customer base is doing. Informally ask them about the online social networks they currently use, or include such questions in a survey. And be sure to check out how your competition is marketing online. If they aren’t doing anything, you may have identified an opportunity to set your music business apart.
Look for established networks. There are tons of choices when it comes to choosing a business-to-business network. When you stick to an established network, you can spend time building your business rather than searching for the latest networks to join. Plus, sticking to just a few networks allows you to be a more active participant and to effectively build strong working relationships.
Proceed with caution. Monitoring social networks can be time-consuming. And there is the possibility of decreased productivity. Remember that this is a networking and advertising tool. Limit your time on these networks by creating a daily appointment and time limit to update and read posts. You don’t have to read every single post- just skim- and create engaging yet short posts to keep clients checking up on your site. Time is money, so remember that your 3 hour Facebook session could be costing you valuable working time in other areas.