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    12 Replies Latest reply on May 21, 2008 11:43 AM by designer

    How do small businesses use social networking?

    davidglenn33 Wayfarer
      Hi all,

      This is an interesting question for you all....since you are all owners, managers or associated with small business and you are active on this social networking site.

      Here is what I am interested to know -

      Do small business owners and manager see the value in social networking for their business?
      Do small business owner and managers understand how social networking can be used for their business?
      Do small business owners and managers understand the value proposition for RSS feeds, Forums, Newsletters, Blogging about their business?

       

      Intersted in learning from you all.

      Best Regards

      David
        • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
          LUCKIEST Guide

          How do small businesses use social networking.

           

          Interesting question and YES to all 3 of your questions.

           

          Good luck.
          • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
            SmallBizLink Newbie
            These are great questions! I have been asking myself these very questions for awhile. The answer will vary from business to business. Every business owner has needs that can be met by social networks and some business owners feel they don't need social networks. Look at the 90's seems that everyone survived just fine without social networks. Regardless there are many benefits that every business owner can use.

            Currently there is a community of small business owners that have trouble marketing and advertising because of the large corporations that dominate the world today. Social Networks offers a unique solution for small businesses to gather collectively and establish networks throughout the world. This social networking site can allow businesses across the globe to gather and exchange important information that will help their business succeed in today's fast paced, corporate world. This site not only offers a place to electronically gather but also has links to other sites that offer important information for this community. In short, social networks can provide important information essential to the survival of any small business.

            As stated on wikipedia:
            " Social networks connect people at low cost; this can be beneficial for entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to expand their contact base. These networks often act as a customer relationship management tool for companies selling products and services. Companies can also use social networks for advertising in the form of banners and text ads. Since businesses operate globally, social networks can make it easier to keep in touch with contacts around the world."

            Now stating that; I get back to your original questions, do business owners and managers see all these values that can be obtained from a social networks site?

            My answer is ... increasingly people are learning more and more about social networks. The news is reporting daily on social networks. I believe many business owners do use the internet. Although a survey showed that most business owners understand that the internet is important for their business to succeed but many don't know how to use it. I don't have the link to the article that sited that survey but I will look for it and post it later.

            Regards
            SmallBizLink
            • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
              MnlyTechnlgy Adventurer
              davidglenn33 - My answer to all three questions you posed is YES! We are a small business, fighting to compete with the bigger "dogs" in the industry who have been around and already made their namesake a household word. Business Networking of all kinds is the most cost-effective method we have found to get our name on the scoresheet as a viable competitor. Not only are we competing in the industry, but we're targeting a specific niche - the small business owner, which many in the web development industry do not target or specialize in. The state of Maine is comprised of many small businesses, a lot of them seasonal who rely VERY heavily on the tourism factor that Maine offers. We're small business focused because we're a small business and feel we have a lot to offer the small business community. Any time we get the chance to network socially, whether through online communities such as this, or at a physical networking event ... we take full advantage.
                • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                  davidglenn33 Wayfarer
                  Good feedback all.

                  From our research and having worked with many SMB owners, they understand how a web presence can help their business (online brochure and shopping carts and some level of search engine marketing, but many don't see the value in or quite understand the value of Social Networking technologies for their specific business.

                  I agree that business needs vary by business type and model - which is why we spend a lot of time educating people on the pros and cons for our services.

                  I think the larger challenge for many SMB is the management of the site. When we talk about SN technologies, it requires proactive engagement with the customer/user base. The whole idea is communicating with the customer on a frequent basis about information they care about (industry events, product updates, customer care issues, enhancements, special events, etc...).

                  The challenge we see is Mr./Mrs. SMB owner needs to have a subject matter expert manage the user experience on and for the site empowered with Social Networking Technologies. This is a BIG BIG hole for many owners.

                  Another other insight to the SMB owner's view of web/social networking is helpful.

                  Any recommendations how blueknowledge can help the owner is welcome as well.

                  Best

                  dg
                • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                  Lighthouse24 Ranger
                  Interesting questions. I gather that you wanted a personal perspective rather than a view on what business owners in general might think, so that's what I'm offering.

                   

                  +Do I see the value+? Yes, in two areas -- (1) social networking provides relationship-building opportunities that are essential to business success (in my view, my strongest competitors are less knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced than I, but they have more "connections" -- i.e., they are better relationship-builders); (2) social networking provides an insight into what people think, feel, and do (and I need that insight as a consultant, author, and trainer if I want to connect with people in an interesting or entertaining way, offer them information they didn't already have, and do something for them -- or inspire them to do something for themselves -- that wasn't happening before).

                  +Do I understand how it can be used for business+? Yes, as noted above, but on-line social networking is a rapidly emerging thing in many ways -- so I'm sure I don't understand all the possible ways it can or might be used.

                  +Do I understand the value proposition+? Partially, but it's too soon to measure all the variables. For example, I received an engagement last month from someone I met at a conference six years ago -- so by comparison, my on-line social networking efforts have not had much time to "pay off." Likewise, the costs associated with on-line social networking are still a question mark. When I meet people face-to-face, I can usually "size them up" fairly quickly and know if they are genuine. It takes more time and effort to meet the real person behind an on-line user name and profile -- so I might be employing some technologies and/or developing certain on-line relationships that ultimately have no business value whatsoever. I don't think so, but it's too soon to quantify for sure.

                   


                  Hope that addresses your questions. Best wishes.
                  • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                    babyjoy214 Adventurer
                    hi!

                    YES here! to the 3 questions.. social networking is the basis if you're to continue or stop your business, I mean, there's no clients and customers if they have no idea your business exist.. it promotes your business..
                    • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                      DPhilabaum Newbie
                      Hi David:

                      Great question and one I hear all the time. Small business owners KNOW they need to do something on the web - BUT what?

                      Here are my big 10 things to start:

                      1) Google Adwords - simple, fast and produce results quickly
                      2) Search Engine Optimization - definately is repeatable, measurable and predictable
                      3) Create simple lowcost videos - it's easy to do. Simply interview staff regarding what they do, have the founder talk about quality
                      4) Collect email addresses of ALL customers and develop an email "drip marketing" strategy to engage them
                      5) Use webcams to talk to clients. Heck they cost 19.95 and they are a fun way to communicate - your clients will love it
                      6) Yes, blog. It takes 10 minutes to set up. Have everyone in your company create a blog entry to spread the responsibility
                      7) Create a short whitepaper on why your product provides ROI
                      8) Drive your email marketing and whitepaper requests to monthly Webinars
                      9) Analyze your progress, just like you do your monthly P&L's. Use Google Analytics
                      10) Hold FUN contests. I almost cried I laughed so hard when I heard a guy got 5,000 people to dress up their vacuum cleaners and post the photos on his website. What can you do to get your customers to have fun with your products and or services.

                      And for a bonus, don't forget online communities. You can start an online community for your customers at ning.com in minutes. I've got a number of white papers on the subject, drop me an email! don@internetstrategiesgroup.com

                      Don Philabaum
                      • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                        TGA000 Wayfarer
                        DavidGlenn33,

                        I'd have to say that just about 99.99% of small business owners don't just not understand social networking... they don't understand how to use the Internet! Now, I'm not saying that to sound rude, I'm just stating what I've seen in the 7ish years I've been doing this stuff.

                        Facebook. That site is perfect for small biz owners because it has such a strong local touch. Just about everything to start is geo focused and allows somebody insane access to other folks right in their area.

                        The other issue with biz owners and social networking is not understanding the philosophy behind web 2.0. It's not a "Thing" it's a mindset. This fact is also reflected in how many companies go out of business, how many startups fail, and how many people who first attempt to use social networking are booted/banned from the sites when they first walk in.

                        You must learn to sell without selling. This fact has always been with us, but until webmasters of these sites took the stand to say "knock off the ads" it wasn't really that obvious. Take radio for example. CPM is something of a dead idea that's still walking among us. Like some zombie that no matter how many times you shoot it... it. just. won't. go. down!

                        I have clients who have blown through over $5500 in 1 week on radio ads and not seen 1 new prospect. Why? Because it's advertising. We're all programmed to tune it out. However wen I set up an interview with a radio host and I'm on the air for less than 5 minutes I can expect to not just get 500 - 1000 new prospects, I will get sometimes over 100+ sales the first day!

                        What's the difference? I don't advertise. So to answer all your questions about RSS feeds, Forums, newsletters. blogging... no, small business owners (for the vast majority) do not understand what they're doing. If they did they would be using these same truths and philosophies in their every day off line marketing as well.
                        • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                          Bemore Adventurer
                          Yes to all three. I have a hard time separating what I do in my business from all social aspects of my life as a lot of people I know socially I have met through my business.
                          • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                            jimmymac Newbie
                            Great subject.

                            We are just beginning to incorporate social networking as a principal pillar in our marketing strategy.

                            As a firm we are implementing an e-commerce platform for digital content.

                            We will be utilizing all the web2 tools to brand our products, locate markets, articulate value and drive people to the site.

                            Our market is SMBs. The good news is its a huge market. The bad news is its a huge market.

                            Our challenge is finding the segment, articulating a value prop and compel buyers to transact business.

                            Some great ideas from all the posters. Thank you!

                            We'll keep you posted and please feel free to contact us with any suggestions and ideas.

                            Continued success,

                            Sum2, LLC
                            assessing risk|realizing opportunities
                            www.sum2.com
                            • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                              iMicrobrand Adventurer
                              Wow! Now we are talkin huh??!!

                              Earlier this month I posted a Topic called "Fire Your Web Guy.... or Gal..." something like that, I if I can remember correctly I tried to put some spotlights on this subject the power of "YOU INTERNET"

                              To answer the question before I start rambling on.... YES!!! It's not a matter of the importance of Social Networking - it really boils down to the Understanding of Social Networking. Fact is Social Networking is not really an option for the SBO, the truth however is that many SBO's are clueless about Social Networking, Web 2.0? WOW! Now we are pushing it. Like mentioned early on in this thread someone said... "Web 2.0 is a frame of mind..." or something like that. So teh hurdle - is getting SBO's to understand 1. The value of Social Networking and 2. Getting them to get in the right "mindset" (Web 2.0) to truly maximize this new communication format.

                              Being in the web industry for a loooong time I have seen a few milestones that are prophetic to the future of the Internet. In fact I am willing to bet that all of us have seen them BUT if we are not connected enough, the changes are happening around and under us without us fully being conscious of it ... Let's look at this small snippet...

                              1. Web was born.... Designed to connect "thinkers" all over the world - mainly Scientist...
                              2. Web was Commercialized and everybody wanted a .com
                              3. Traditional Designers went digital - Birth of the "Web Designer"

                              Side Bar: Nerds kept creating code to make the web a better place for the "non-social"

                              4. Dot Com bust - people where simply not ready
                              5. Small business owners (who had some dreams to fulfill) picked up the crumbs and started banging out sites... Literally millions of em...
                              6. Larger Corp kept their sites rolling along - needed em like they needed brochures and business cards...
                              7. A new generation started getting older - Generation Y <--- Born at a keyboard...
                              8. Designers started getting rattled - the Gen Y's started birthing "template sites" that undercut the web design guy...

                              Side Bar: Nerds kept creating code to make the web a better place for the Social... (remember Gen Y?)

                              9. The Nerds started taking over with Blogs - BUT the Nerds actually became the Coolest.... They could reach more people faster than ever before FOR FREE!!
                              10. The crowd above #7 ignored the "Bum Rush" of the Gen Y'ers
                              11. The new Email = SMS
                              12. The New Website = Blog
                              13. The New "eNewsletter" = RSS Feed

                              Ultimately the web started getting back to the grass roots and #1 has become a reality... Just now because of the various side bars along the way - we do it slicker than they ever imagined...

                              SO the SBO - If they do not change the mindset from "I Have a Beautiful Homepage" to... "I Am Present within 20 - 30 Social Networks..." they will start missing a whole new Generation of Buyer, potential Client.

                              Cheers!! Great Discussion!!

                              Vincent A. Hunt
                              Microbrandologist
                              • Re: How do small businesses use social networking?
                                designer Tracker
                                So far, social networking has worked great for me. I took the time to invest in it and through SBOC and Linked In, I surprised myself how many people I knew and connected with. I have gained quite a few new clients and prospects. I think it all boils down to "people skills" and being engaging. For some people, it comes natural.....for others, it's not so easy. We are all being introduced to so many new sites and tools out there and one has to be able to manage them all and decide what works for them. I don't know if all business owners understand and use social networking, they could be extremely busy operting a restaurant from morning to night and may hardly ever get onto a computer.