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Five Ways to Network Your Small Business

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6th Apr 2010

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It s easy to see that social networking has revolutionized the way we work. Aside from the possibilities for socializing, it has become a tool for marketing, branding and promotion. It has simplified public relations, and it is also creating some unexpected benefits.

For a while, it seemed the struggling small or medium sized business owner was fighting a losing battle in the face of large corporate rivals, but a resurgence in personalized marketing has been made possible by social networks. Here are five ways to harness this new opportunity to get your voice out there:

1. Personalize yourself.

Business owners are increasingly aware that their own global village has never been more accessible, and are getting to know the inhabitants. At a personal level, social networking sites provide a link from proprietor to customer, cutting out that feeling we all get in a big, anonymous city.

  • Set up a link on facebook or twitter to your business or even just to you: the point is to make what you do recognizable.

2. Break down barriers.

Be aware that people have a tendency toward loyalty to brands and services within them. It goes without saying that if they feel that what they are exchanging money for is well worth what they paid, they remember and will want to do it again.

Use the platform you have set up to engage these customers in conversation. Dialogue is the most underestimated tool in marketing, and by utilizing peoples thoughts and opinions you will invite a reciprocal exchange. This exchange will then help your consumers to develop loyalty.

  • Keep an eye out for mentions of your name or the name of your business. When you spot anything, start up a conversation even if it s just a quick thanks for the mention!

3. Know your advantages.

Social media is a valuable alternative to conventional advertising, and for small businesses it means saving on advertising costs. It reaches different strata of consumers, but via paths which are far more likely to make an impact. It means people hear from their friends and families, which brings up elements of trust and respect which the consumer has largely lost for advertising. See it as a welcome extension of word of mouth. A megaphone, for example.

  • Urge consumers to let other people know about your presence.

4. Be flexible.

Understand that people can informally review your goods or services on these sites, and that these reviews may not always be positive. Make a point of paying attention, and reinforce what people like, while being prepared to reconsider what they don t. A key element of success is the ability to accept criticism.

  • Be pleasant, light-hearted and conversational. This is the situation in which you really make the most of the fact that you are a person, not just a business.
  • Reply to tweets, respond to messages, but do it with a smile.
  • Use apologies if they are necessary (and sometimes even if they re not).

5. Be sneaky.

Take a look at this collection of tweets between a representative of a popular youth-centred marketing blog, after locking horns with her phone company. This kind of personal, individually directed advertising is just so effective it made my head spin.

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