Getting social online

Social networkingSocial Networking sites are exploding all over the internet. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have heard of many of the more popular ones such as Facebook and MySpace. There is a good chance that you will have thought that these sites were only good for your kids or niece or nephew, but if you are not getting involved yourself you could be missing out on some great marketing opportunities. Business social networks are cropping up all over the place, so here is a brief overview of what it’s all about.

Social networks are not just for fun, they can also be a great way to broaden your customer base; they are a powerful marketing tool for online businesses.

First, the basics…

What is social networking? Social networking is an online community of like-minded people looking to link up with those who share the same interests. These people connect together in a web-based area to share information, tips, share experiences or just chat about themselves.

The websites that provide these networking services either specialise in one group of people, like those looking for business connections, or they provide a service where you can start your own community of cyber friends to network with.

Internet users join these sites to find others just like them and start to communicate with each other as a group to learn new things or even to link up with other friends. It’s much like email and instant messaging in the sense that you can connect with others through an online medium.

The internet is global and social networking is a great opportunity to connect with women all over the world.

What networks are best for business

There are lots of social networking sites available on the web today, so how do you choose which one is right for you. Here is a run down of some of the networks that I know of that may be of interest.

Ecademy – Ecademy was founded by Penny and Thomas Power back in the late 90’s and is one of the most established in the business market. There are 3 levels of membership including a free level. They have offline networking events as well as the chance to connect with people all over the UK… and Google loves them. If you use ecademy effectively it can also be a great way to build traffic to your site.

Facebook– This is possibly the most popular networking site that is best known for its ability to provide space to share photos and videos with other users. It can be used very effectively for business as well. They have a facility to create club pages, very cheap advertising that can be specifically targeted to user groups and are a great way to connect with people.

Giant Potential – This is an online community that has been created by Roberta Jerram – it has been built using Ning (more on this a little later), and is a lovely community that supports women entrepreneurs.

Athena Connect – A relatively new community site that has been formed for Athena Members. It has events, news, blogs and is a great way for Athena members to keep in touch.

Everywoman – I don’t have any experience of this network yet, but it already has over 1000 members. You need to register via the Everywoman website and can then login on the network site.

Business Women’s Café – This is another site that has been brought to my attention recently which is worth having a look at. You can blog, add events, and connect with other business women.

Linked In – Linked In is one of the larger business social networks and is used very widely by people from a corporate background. Many people use it to recruit others or find a job.

Or why not create your own?

It’s not as hard as you may think. Ning is a fantastic free (!) resource for people that want to build a community around their own business or business area. It is very easy to use and set up and you can create a public or private community. It is easy to use even for the most un-technical person, you have a series of templates to choose from, you can choose the functionality that you want to include such as blogs, forums or photos and then just invite people to join. You can create it so that people can join automatically or go through an approval process. You can find out more on the Ning website, but it can be a great way to build your own profile and credibility in your business area.

Hopefully this has given you a good starting point for social networking. Regardless of which social network you join, it is only as good as the time and effort that you put into it. I highly recommend that you give it a go as you could be surprised by the opportunities that open up for you.

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