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Three Ways to Harness the Power of Social Networking

Three Ways to Harness the Power of Social Networking

Seventy percent of U.S. households are on the Internet in 2008, according to eMarketer. But what are they doing? Americans are engaged in four primary tasks:

  1. Researching
  2. Sharing
  3. Shopping
  4. Communicating

You may notice that your business can fit into all these categories. But did you know that you have a much better chance of getting in front of your target audience when you use the right tools and techniques? In this article, you will learn how to leverage the new dynamics of communication to benefit from social networking. We’ve been networking for 100,000 plus years. Now’s the time to take it one step further by going online to expand your contacts, word-of-moth marketing and your online visibility.

What is social networking and why should you care?

A few benefits you may want to consider:

  • Reach a bigger market
  • Deepen engagement with your audience
  • Quickly attain expert status
  • Expand your network online and get qualified leads
  • Get instant feedback

If any of these goals are important to you, keep reading and you’ll gain some new insights. You’ve heard of Facebook with nearly 70 million users worldwide, LinkedIn (the professional networking site with 21 million members and growing), MySpace which has about 117 million unique visitors each month, CraigsList, YouTube and Wikipideia, right? Just look at some of these numbers. These are some of the largest and fastest growing Web sites with inherent characteristics – sharing information to like-minded communities in a measurable efficient way. Surprisingly, they are not limited to a young audience either. Remember that sharing information is the second most popular reason people go online. That means they could be sharing your information. Social networking is about “user-generated content” (UGC), which means the user is the one creating and posting the content. It’s a great way to share information, whether it’s through photos, videos and/or text. You can share profiles, business information, recommendations, opinions etc. That’s essentially the same thing as word-of-mouth marketing whereby people are sharing and expressing their opinions, experiences and recommendations of professionals, products and professionals. Given the shear number of online activity, doesn’t it stand to reason you have a greater chance to reach a larger more targeted audience when you utilize these tools?

I read an article last week in the Wall Street Journal about how one couple was soliciting input about all the important details concerning their wedding using social media. The bride was asking people to share their suggestions for all details of that very special day; from choosing the type of wedding cake to which song they should dance to first. Surprisingly, white chocolate cake and carrot cake were the top choices. What an easy way to eliminate the guesswork and make your life easier.Everyone wants to be connected and share information online, whether its videos, most read articles or voting on your favorite couple on Dancing with the Stars. So, how does this translate into opportunity for you? Let’s start with some eye-opening statistics and then we’ll see how you can get in front of a hungry audience for your services. Remember: If your business benefits by word-of-mouth, then you can benefit by social networking.

New digital marketing tools are available now than ever and it’s sometimes difficult to understand which ones are best for your business. These are resources such as blogs, online PR, Google ads, e-mail marketing, social networking, videos, RSS and more. How can you incorporate these into your business to attract more clients and elevate your image?

As one who blogs about “Trends in Internet Marketing,” I stay abreast of new technology to figure out innovative solutions to use in marketing programs. I’ll admit that I avoided social networking last year thinking this was really for people under 30. But, it wasn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting stronger every minute. Ironically, I immediately embraced blogs a few years ago and these have been proven to improve Web site rankings and generate lots of free publicity. Blogs that are updated help drive targeted traffic to your Web site. I just couldn’t see the business benefits of social networking.

Then, I kept hearing about the vast numbers of baby boomers and seniors joining the social networking revolution. I researched and interviewed top experts to get their insights about how to use social media for individuals older than 40 years old. Many didn’t have actual case studies, though they agreed the field is wide open for the pioneer and creative thinker. This is still an untapped opportunity and ideal for the professional that wants an edge and is willing to join and participate in these rapidly growing communities.

There are three ways to get started:

No. 1: Create a short online video in minutes and get thousands of views. I just purchased the best-selling “flip” video camera, which is the easiest video camera you’ll ever find. No instructions necessary and no software. You simply shoot your video clip and with its built-in USB port, it plugs right into your computer. You can share your video via e-mail or instantly upload it onto YouTube. How would you use this to promote your services? Well, three ways for starters:

  • Promote your next seminar or Webinar
  • Interview your clients and share their feedback
  • Introduce a new product, tip or trend to share with PR professionals, trade magazines and your prospects and clients. More journalists are scouring the Internet under videos searching for news and story ideas. Even Google’s video search is becoming extremely popular.

Why you should post a video on YouTube

More than 50 percent of Internet users watch videos online and videos are a great way to improve your e-mail response rates – up to 40 percent per recent case studies. You could create a 3-4 minute video with some financial tips and spread your message that way. Videos are also a quick way to get others to market for you through their viral effect. Why not post that video on http://www.youtube.com under your keywords so more people can find you? If nothing else, it’s free publicity. To view a video I recently created to promote a seminar, click here

YouTube, the online video-sharing site that was bought by Google for $1.65 billion last year now gets about 100,000 million daily downloads versus 3,000 in 2006, just two years ago. This will help you get a glimpse of the explosive growth in sharing information, one of the top four reasons people go online. With an audience of 57 million, it’s the seventh most popular online brand in the U.S. per Nielsen Online in October 2007.

ProducersWEB.com does an excellent job of using social media to offer their subscribers many ways to share information to their 200,000 plus members. They utilize articles, forums and video, and encourage two-way communication. This is what social media is all about.

It’s easy to start and brand your own channel and establish a vertical niche market. This also helps you get found online faster when someone searches your keywords or company name on Google or YouTube. So, there are inherent search engine optimization benefits just by uploading your video and inserting keywords.

No. 2: Create a profile of the fastest growing professional networking site: http://www.linkedin.com. According to their Web site, LinkedIn is an online network of more than 20 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. It’s a free service. I recently heard how one company won a $1 million contract through one of their referrals in their LinkedIn network. This is also an excellent way to find a new job or switch careers, just in case you know someone in that situation. You can even start or join your own group.

No. 3: Get listed on Web sites like http://www.loladex.com, Yahoo (get listed in their local directory) and yelp.com. Loladex is all about word of mouth, and these are the businesses for which people tend to seek advice.

I recently met this creative entrepreneur, Edith Young who co-founded SF Entrepreneur. You can see how her company is using social networking to facilitate professional networking through a contest – the equivalent of American Idol for entrepreneurs. Her Web site is the first San Francisco social network community focusing on publicizing entrepreneurs, their passion and businesses.

In conclusion, why not take a few minutes and explore these sites and then take one hour or less to get your company name and Web site listed on these sites or get your teenager to do it for you. Just taking the three recommended strategies will boost your exposure online and keep you far ahead of the competition. Many financial professionals wrongfully limit their marketing to direct mail or seminars to promote their services, but the new digital techniques will get you better results cost-effectively. Be willing to experiment a little and add a few new strategies each quarter.