Gaining the trust and friendships of your customers is crucial in the business world today. But how do you get your new or growing businesss name out there and trusted by your customers? Social Networking may be able to help with that. These organizations can help you “develop the trust that ultimately creates influence among your customers”(Safko 21). There are however some people who don’t know what social networking for businesses is, “social networking occurs when a group of like-minded people interact online to share interests or concerns, collaborate, give and seek advice, and offer one another assistance or support”(Lindsell-Roberts 4). From photo sharing to just keeping up with contacts, social networking is starting to show up in businesses everywhere. Is it really helping, or are these large and small businesses just jumping on the bandwagon? There is a vast amount of different companies and organizations that connect billions of people every day such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Fast Pitch!, and Twitter. All of these organizations offer almost the same service but they all vary in many ways. These aforementioned forms of social media/networks aren’t the only kinds that are usual in businesses. There are a million ways a professional can get their business into a social network, and known to the social media.
Some of the major well known social networks are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Fast Pitch!. First I am going to talk about these well known and commonly used services and how they help and some of the ways you can use them.
Every day millions of people log into Facebook to connect with millions of other people, all these people talk to each other, “if you have one hundred connections on Facebook, and each of those connections has one hundred connections, you’ll be two links away from ten thousand connections. If each of those ten thousand connections has 100 connections, you’ll be three links away from one million connections” (Lindsell-Roberts 1). Users over the age of 30 are starting to use Facebook, many of these users speak their political beliefs and speak freely to other users with the same beliefs. That being said, these users are highly valuable when using a Facebook profile for your business because these people can all see what the other person has to share on their profile. They can offer advertisement of your business through just word of mouth to over millions of people in a single day. Businesses can also utilize Facebook to advertise, for example, with the election going on for the next president the candidates are advertising their campaign in posts and blogs to win over votes of the users they attract with these advertisements. You can also use Facebook to target consumer’s specific to a certain geographic location.
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Another social network businesses can utilize is called Fast Pitch!. This company is more specific to the business realm and offer more particular tools for professionals in businesses, “Fast Pitch! makes it easier for the professionals to network using a profile displaying what they do, what they sell, and what makes their company unique” (Safko 451-452). Fast Pitch! gives companies the ability to share ideas and collaborate through “virtual” trade shows. They do this by using live video chats or two way video calls using Skype or Voip. Fast Pitch! also gives you the ability to publish content such as press releases, news, videos, and podcasts. Fast Pitch! also has a system that “automatically targets the audience the user is trying to reach ensuring that their posts are viewed by the target audience” (Safko 52). Along with that feature there is tool that allows the user to gauge the success of their business using statistics of their business. Fast Pitch! is mainly for professionals in businesses as a marketing technique. Fast Pitch! can also be for those seeking employment. Fast Pitch! doesn’t keep inactive profiles around, they delete the profiles that aren’t being used so there is only active profiles making searches and collaboration and just the entire network run a lot smoother.
LinkedIn is another online network that businesses can utilize to gain the trust of consumers and other businesses to expand growth. This network uses a technique called degrees, “connections are rated in degrees, meaning direct connections are first degree connections, users listed as connections on that user’s profile are second degree connections and so forth” (Safko 458). There are also features on LinkedIn where users can ask questions and get answers from other users and businesses. In addition to answering those questions they can also offer resolutions and recommendations. On one account a linked in user made a profit of one hundred thousand dollars annually while spending only seven thousand annually searching through LinkedIn.
Another popular form of social media is blogging, and this includes micro-blogging. Blogging is all about what you feel like you want to say. It can be from voicing your opinion to support your beliefs all the way to updating information. Blogs are read by millions of people each day and are shared with just about everybody they know depending on how relevant they think that blog is to how they feel and if it is something they feel should be shared with their community. Micro-blogging is almost the same as blogging but it is shortened to fewer than 200 characters. Micro-blogs are popular due to the fact that they are short and to the point, giving readers a full understanding in a small easy to read text. Twitter is a popular micro-blog. Twitter gives users the ability to “follow” other users they feel have the same connection in beliefs or just have the same general liking of certain subjects. With twitter users are able to “share their current activity or state of mind with friends and strangers” (Safko 538). Twitter is majorly helpful to businesses and has been given the title “word of mouth engine” by Chris Winfield. Twitter is capable of updating users about the people they are following through the website, RSS feeds, mobile texts messages, or email. Twitter can also work with other social networking cites, updating users through Facebook. Twitter gives businesses a way to receive feedback about their products or services through a market with no fees. Twitter is for everyone, including entrepreneurs to fortune 500 companies. Twitter is a huge network with simple commands that keep everyone using it connected in some sort of way. When a user sees a post, he or she can share that post by reposting it on their own profile, allowing every one of their followers to see it and repost it themselves. One key example of use of twitter is when NASA found water ice on mars with the Phoenix Mars Lander; they used twitter to share the news of this new found discovery.
Another account of the use of twitter in business was in February of 2010. A man by the name of Chris Hughes launched his own canvas bag company called Artifact Bag Co:
In 2010, after a year of quietly following Michael Williams’ style bog, A Continuous Lean, Hughes spotted a tweet about of set of chairs that the blogger thought looked cool but were overpriced. Turns out, Hughes had won those exact chairs on eBay, and he commented on the post. Then he crossed his fingers, hoping Williams would take a few seconds to click through to the Artifacts website. Within an hour, Williams’ pivotal tweet came: “This waxed canvas lunch bag is nice-looking” (with a link to the item). Soon the fashion press came calling, and after the tote was featured in A Continuous Lean’s holiday buying guide, Hughes found himself with a more than 400-unit backlog that took six months to whittle down, even with the help of contract workers (Wang 54)
This is just another small example of how quickly one tweet can help expand your business exponentially. Chris Hughes states that social media can be easily abused and only properly works if you use thought capital. Though capital includes presenting the product or services to the public in an appealing manner. This is basically how you would present the product in an online storefront, or E-commerce.
Other non-traditional services one may look at for the growth of their business through social media include Ning, and online gaming. Ning is another social network but it differs from your typical idea of social network that already has a large network pre-established that you join, Ning gives the user the opportunity to design their own network on the internet and allows other users to join your private social network. Users can make their own profile for different networks, allowing a user to have a profile on more than one network all linked together. Ning allows the user to customize their own network to their specific needs, “As the Ning web site puts it, the Ning platform is the software equivalent of Home Depot. Unlike other services that offer a ‘one-size-fits all’ offering, your social network on Ning runs on a programmable platform” (Safko 464). This ultimately gives the user full control of their personal social network. So as far as how Ning can be used, it all depends on how you want to implement it into your business. Anyone can use Ning and create their own social networks, such as musicians, to give fans updates and tour dates and post contests.
Online gaming is a very unique and original way to reach consumers and advertise your product or services. Some may not see the potential of advertising through online gaming:
Many people tend to view online video games as an activity with no business value- a waste of time in which only teenagers participate. However when you have fifty thousand to eight million people in the same place with the same interests in a trusted network, a business opportunity exists(Safko 321)
If you take a look at new video games that are coming out, they advertise their new products in this particular field because their main consumers are already using their platform, or consol. Video game developers are not the only ones who can and do advertise in an online gaming environment, Barack Obama had his campaign for presidency advertised on Xbox Live, a popular online gaming network. He bought his advertising to be placed in a popular game called Burnout Paradise.
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With social networking your business depends on the people that you don’t have a relationship established yet, meaning that the people you know the least are the people that are helping your business grow by sharing what they know about to other people they know and expanding your business growth. Yes these relationships with people you know the least can be established by the consumers and the strong relationships you have with other people, but these people already have an established connection with your business and therefore are not contributing to growth of social capital. Scott Goodson, author of “Uprising” states “that the old way of marketing- Pitching a product to the largest possible audience through mass media- is dying. He argues that the best way to reach people is to look for topics and causes around which they are already gathering and align one’s brand with those topics”(Stanford Social Innovation Review 15). The way I feel about Goodson’s idea is, yes it helps, but you have to use social media to gather this information of topics and ideas that consumers look at. Secondly in order for a business to get these topics and ideas of a new brand know to the general public, they must make their new product well known and have an honest established connection between the product/services and the consumer. This day in age, social may be the fastest way to establish a connection with those consumers that you know the least through the consumers you already have an established connection with.
Social networking can exponentially help any business, large or small. Word of mouth through any sort of followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any online blog will get your business known to millions of people in different geographical locations. Online social networking is not the only way to get your business in a social network though; traditional conferences and trade shows are still just as effective. Trade shows and conferences aren’t the only place you can advertise your business through word of mouth. Other places may include restaurants, a get together like a cocktail party, you can pretty much get your business into a social network through word of mouth just about anywhere you are likely to meet people. All it takes is just a little friendly talking, then those people start talking to other people whom talk to other people they know which can drastically increase business and revenue.
Not only can social networking get your business name out to those customers that normally would be hard to reach out to, but it can also help someone seeking employment in businesses or help a business find applicants. Some years ago, but including today, “job hunters would pour through the classified ads in the newspapers, especially on Sunday mornings, hoping to catch a glimpse of something for which they might remotely qualify” (Lindsell-Roberts 43). In today’s society the task of seeking employment is not as daunting, you can just do a Google search for something in your field of expertise and you will find a never ending list of businesses seeking applicants and new hires. These businesses use social networks to list openings and positions available to reach out to those who wouldn’t normally have known about their business otherwise.
Social networking may not be for every business as far as marketing though, many times social networking may not show any signs of helping your business. These tactics don’t replace the traditional face to face kind of business, although reaching out to new customers is always good, and a lot of the time social networks are the best way to reach those outside of your geographic location. But how do those people know what kind of business you offer? This tactic involves a lot of dedication to your website or online profile including update, events, sales, offers, and customer service.
With social networking your business depends on the people that you don’t have a relationship established with yet, meaning that the people you know the least are the people that are helping your business grow by sharing what they know about your business, to other people they know, expanding your business growth. The relationship you have with already established consumers doesn’t really help expand your social capital, these connections don’t really take your business name further out to those you haven’t reached yet. Scott Goodson, author of “Uprising” states “that the old way of marketing- Pitching a product to the largest possible audience through mass media- is dying. He argues that the best way to reach people is to look for topics and causes around which they are already gathering and align one’s brand with those topics”(Manzo 15). The way I feel about Goodson’s idea is, yes it helps, but you have to use social media to gather this information of topics and ideas that consumers look at. Secondly in order for a business to get these topics and ideas of a new brand know to the general public, they must make their new product well known and have an honest established connection between the product/services and the consumer. This day in age, social may be the fastest way to establish a connection with those consumers that you know the least through the consumers you already have an established connection with.
I believe social networking in businesses has already been in use, but online social networking has majorly played a key role in expanding current businesses and helping small beginner businesses start out. The social media plays a big role in consumers’ opinions in today’s society. Most consumers read reviews that other consumers post in all of these social networks and base their opinion of these businesses off of the majority of what other consumers say about that business. That being said social networks have absolutely helped the growth and take off of many businesses. At the same time it also depends on what kind of business operation you run. Customer support is a key necessity in businesses using social networks. If you don’t maintain a good rapport with your consumers then your business can build a bad reputation over a social network which can cause terrible business. For those businesses with good a rapport then this technique would be a good investment to help increase revenue. So in conclusion social networks have helped businesses grow and establish connections between consumers and other businesses.
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