Getting down to business: A Social Networking Primer for Business Owners

Social Networking Primer: Five Things You Can Do To Grow Your Business

By James Weddle, Founder, ShareOnce.com

The world of business networking has changed drastically just in the past few years. While in-person networking gatherings and local advertising still play a significant role in successfully promoting your business, it’s become increasingly critical for small businesses to leverage social networking and media sites on the Internet to successfully promote your business, announce events and promotions, capture and share leads and referrals, and hire.

Right now the big social media platforms are Twitter, Facebook (via Facebook “fan pages” for your business or organization), and LinkedIn. But even a personal or business blog has elements of social media, because all the major blogging products and services allow your readers to comment and interact with you and each other.  Basically, each product, service and platform has it is advantages and drawbacks.  So the best thing to do as a small business owner is to cover as many bases as possible.

With that in mind, here are five things you can do right now to get your business seen and heard in the online social media world, and increase your business. These are all free, so cost isn’t a factor to get started.

1. Socialize

Set up your free social networking accounts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Depending on which estimates you believe, for Facebook alone, 300 million people worldwide can’t be wrong! Either way, they are all free and each can help you create and foster relationships for your business.

2. Start a blog

If you don’t want to bother with installing any software on your existing web site, you can set up your blog free at WordPress.com or Blogger.com.  Then, simply set up your site to redirect the address “blog.yoursite.com” or “yoursite.com/blog” to your off-site blog URL. (You do have a web site today, don’t you?)

If you want to get a bit more in-depth, you can install free, open-source blogging software such as WordPress on your own site. It’s not that hard; you don’t have to be a programmer to do it. However, making it look like your existing site can be beyond most small business owners. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-cost options for customizing WordPress. Check out rentacoder.com or elance.com for inexpensive blog customization services.

Once your blog is up and running you can automatically feed it content by integrating your Facebook and Twitter posts with your blog. Alternately, you can do the reverse; i.e., you can write content for your blog, publish it, and have it appear on your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

How does this magic happen? All the social media services and platforms enable you to publish your content via something called “RSS feeds” (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication). And these platforms and services are two-way: they can both push out and take in feeds.

3. Publicize: Show them what you’ve got!

A really effective way to publicize yourself is to write an article in your area of expertise and submit it to your business network of choice (e.g. your local Chamber of Commerce). Then, post the article on your blog and link to it from your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Make it a practice to write one serious article a month in your area of expertise. Over time, you’ll become known for what you do.

4. Expand your social networking capabilities with apps, tools and plug-ins

Once you’re blogging and publishing articles, you can optimize your social media workflow with browser plug-ins, Facebook apps, Twitter management tools, etc.   There are hundreds of great tools that speed up your online networking and keep you up-to-date with relevant information.

Two of the best add-ons around are:

  • Selective Twitter – a Facebook application that allows you to post selected Twitter entries to your Facebook account.
  • Bit.ly or other URL shortening services – when you want to share a link, URL shortening services allow you to submit a long link and get a shorter URL that you can share on Twitter or Facebook. Some URL shorteners even allow you to submit directly to your blog or Twitter if you sign up for an account with them.

5. Get down to business

One great way to jump-start your social media strategy is to pick up your free business networking account at ShareOnce.com. Find and join your group on ShareOnce or, if they aren’t there, invite them to set the group up on ShareOnce. It is free for groups and their members and a great way to share and follow up on relevant business opportunities – events, referrals, promotional offers, jobs, etc — across the group.  Simply connect the locations you want to network from to ShareOnce – your Twitter page, your Facebook page, your website or blog — and you will be able to network with your group members anytime, anywhere. We call it “share once, see everywhere.”

Share Once LLC is an Austin-based company that provides business networking services to enterprise customers and networking organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Alumni groups, Trade/Industry Associations and other business and social networking groups. For more information on how you can leverage your existing business network across the web, social media, and mobile technologies, please visit ShareOnce.com or call (512) 410-0041.

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