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Using Social Networks to Market Your Business

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Social networking is still the latest phenomenon in the online world. When the internet was initially formed banner advertising was the all the rage. Next came search marketing, both SEO and PPC, then viral marketing, and social networks are now the new emerging online marketing medium.

The fundamentals of social networking differ to other forms of online marketing. Social networking isn’t about spending money to create visibility for your business. It’s about participation, being part of a community and contributing to it – in essence the fundamentals of social networking are:

  • Creating Awareness – especially in the early days you must be an extremely active user
  • Developing Relationships – make contact and develop relationships with influential users
  • Creating Something of Value – only content which is fun, interesting or useful will gain visibility
  • Building your Reputation – be active, contribute to the community and avoid overly promoting your content

There are a number of different types of social networks – social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace), social news websites (Digg, Mixx), social bookmarking websites (Stumbleupon, Del.icio.us), and niche sites such as Twitter.

Each type of social network requires a slightly different marketing approach, although they all require the four fundamentals – creating awareness, developing relationships, creating something of value, and building your reputation.

The one aspect of social networking which is important to consider is that it does require effort and a huge amount of time. To create awareness and build up a good level of trust on social media websites means that you must actively seek high quality content which can be submitted, as well as reading and tagging those articles which are of high quality.

Similarly, when developing profiles on some of the largest social networking sites a great deal of time and creativity must go into ensuring that something different and useful is provided to visitors. Without this the results will be disappointing.

Social Networking Websites
Examples: Facebook, Bebo
This usually involves creating a profile page, adding valuable content or applications, and promoting it to the wider community. Mainstream online advertising opportunities are also available – creating polls and banner advertising.

Social News Websites
Examples: Digg, Reddit
The marketing approach involves developing relationships and leveraging this through providing interesting or valuable content. When done well there’s a dual effect – increased traffic to your website and incoming links are obtained through bloggers in particular linking to your content.

Social Bookmarking Websites
Examples: StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Del.icio.us
This involves participating in communities, promoting valuable and interesting content, and building relationships, ultimately to create a high level of credibility from which you can gain visibility for your content.

Niche Social Networking Websites
Examples: Twitter
New niche social networking websites are being launched all the time, but one which has really taken off is Twitter, a micro-blogging site. To succeed you need to be active and provide valuable content from which you can hopefully create a list of followers. This visibility can then be leveraged towards your blog or website.

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