Social networking has become a huge buzzword recently, and it’s something that everyone who has a business – online or offline – should consider. The good news is that you can get it for free. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars advertising your product or service all over the Internet – you can use social networking instead.
It’s important to pay attention to two things when you use social networking: what you’re offering to your customers and potential customers, and what social networks you’re advertising on. Not all social networking is created equal, and you need to know what your customers frequent so you can set up accounts on those sites.
Facebook and MySpace are the two most popular sites for providing a lot of information. Twitter is also wildly popular when it comes to short blurbs – and it’s a great place to tweet links to your site, articles you’ve written about your product or service, or other information that relates to getting customers to buy from you.
Just be sure you aren’t spamming your Twitter account (or any other social networking account) with nothing but ‘buy from me.’ That’s a real turn-off to people who might otherwise be interested in what you have to offer. If they think you’re only there for money, they won’t be back to do business with you.
Establishing yourself as an expert in the field you’re involved with and being helpful to others is more important than getting a sale – at least right at first. When people like your online presence and they see that you have knowledge and commitment, they’ll be much more likely to buy from you, and they’ll keep coming back because you’ve created a level of trust with them.
Never underestimate the power of trust, in both personal and business relationships. It’s something that’s hard to earn and all-too-easy to lose, especially when the customer-seller relationship is in its infancy.
Free social networking is convenient because it’s something that anyone can sign up for and use without being worried about business expenses. With that, though, come the perils of using something completely free in that there are often a lot of spammers and scammers out there. You must know how to set yourself apart from them in the eyes of potential customers.
Showing your knowledge rather than automatically asking for sales is the best way to do that, but there are others. Create a business profile (or a personal profile, if you’re a small, sole proprietor and more comfortable that way) on the social networking sites of your choice, and make it professional. It should have all the information you want people to know about you – and nothing you don’t want them to see.
Avoid pictures that are too personal (or inappropriate) and avoid too much specifically personal information. You want potential customers to see that you’re a real person, but that you’re serious about your business and you like to help others. Free social networking can be a great way to make sales, when done correctly.