By Krista Gromalski
Social networking through popular online communities like Facebook www.facebook.com or Twitter http://twitter.com is the primary way many people stay in touch and share information these days. It’s convenient—instead of simply sending an old-fashioned email or indulging in the archaic practice of meeting in person—you can update your Facebook status, share photos, or “tweet” about your favorite topic and reach hundreds of people in one fell swoop.
Now, that’s powerful. But is it valuable? From a business perspective, it is, especially if you have a limited advertising budget. What other medium allows a business to extend its brand by instantly sending its message to a large group of interested customers and prospects for little or no cost, and to receive immediate feedback?
Add to that the potential to drive traffic to your website, which educates your audience, kick-starts commerce and boosts SEO (search engine optimization) and you can’t beat social networking’s return on investment.
That kind of power, of course, comes with some responsibility. Businesses need to understand their target audience and consistently communicate an appropriate message using the right outlets. Sure, Facebook and Twitter are hot, but there are many other avenues available that may offer better tools for your task. Niche networks such as CafeMom www.cafemom.com, Eons.com (for Baby Boomers) www.eons.com, or Zillow (a real estate community) www.zillow.com can connect consumers with specialized interests to relevant products or information.
Or, to establish your business as a trusted source of information, a social bookmarking site like Delicious http://delicious.com can house your collection of links related to a specific topic and share them with your friends or followers. Better yet, add a blog to your business’s website, using WordPress http://wordpress.com or Blogger www.blogger.com, and develop your own voice of authority. This option also allows you to embed photos, audio or video into your commentary.
You can also post multimedia content on sites like YouTube www.youtube.com or Flickr www.flickr.com and link to it from any or all of your social networking accounts. An aggregator service like FriendFeed http://friendfeed.com or Collectedin http://collectedin.com is an easy way to integrate—or lifestream—your content.
The social networking possibilities for businesses are seemingly infinite, but one thing hasn’t changed no matter which network you choose: it’s all in the message. Once you’ve got your audience’s attention, you need to know what to say and keep on saying it.
Krista Gromalski is co-founder of Heron’s Eye Communications http://www.facebook.com/pages/Herons-Eye-Communications/117199556111. She earned her B.A. in Communications from Wilkes University, and has enjoyed a diverse career in journalism and public relations. Before starting Heron’s Eye, Gromalski worked as a reporter covering the Upper Delaware River region and served as editor and publisher of Milford Magazine. Gromalski is a producer of the public television documentary Nature’s Keepers: A Community of Conservationists, for which Heron’s Eye Communications received a 2008 PA Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. She is a Board Member of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.