While blogs and RSS feeds offer solid marketing opportunities, social networks are another way to reach potential customers.
Sites such as MySpace.com, YouTube.com, Facebook.com, Linkedin.com, Flickr.com and others are called social networks, which are online communities where people make profile pages, describing their interests and sharing their thoughts and pictures with other members. These sites allow members to send messages and comment on items on the page.
Joining most of these sites is free, and due to their size, they can present retailers and wholesalers with potential access to millions of people. "Wholesalers and retailers should try everything, because you never know where you will find new markets," said Brandon Cornett, publisher of CEOBlogWatch.com. "Social networks are another low tech, easy way to expand a company's web presence."
As with blogs, companies need to determine who the audience is, and what to convey to this group. Where social networks differ from blogs is that profile pages on social networks will generally hold more material, such as pictures, video clips and music. Social network profile pages themselves also contain blogs. Some dedicated blog sites allow users to input multimedia content, but generally blogs are designed to present an individual's writing.
"When considering using social networks for business, do what appeals to you and what you like," said Sage Lewis, founder and president of the online marketing firm SageRock.com. "If you do not enjoy writing then consider putting together videos or audio podcasts. YouTube has a video capture feature that allows you to upload clips, using just a couple of clicks, directly from your video camera." It can be an inexpensive way for companies to create commercials. Flickr does not handle video, but allows users to upload and organize their photographs, a feature a company might use to display their products.
MySpace and Facebook, while available to anyone, have become more of an online hangout for teenagers, college students and adults under 30. In addition, finding specific wholesalers and retailers on a social network site might be hard at first, but if a company states up front what its profile page is about, buyers will find them.
MySpace is more of a free flowing, personal and casual destination where everyone from rock band members to presidential candidates have created profiles. In the near future, the site will allow users to set up their own online stores on their pages. This could prove to be a boon for wholesalers, because those stores will need merchandise to sell.
Facebook tends to skew more to college students, so a retailer's page there might focus more on regional marketing to cities where there are colleges and universities. Companies should not ignore a site because of its members' youth; many college students, in their never ending quest for money, have become entrepreneurs hawking T-shirts and other items directly out of their dorm rooms.
If a wholesaler or retailer specifically is looking for business customers, it should consider creating a profile on Linkedin.com, a website dedicated to building and maintaining professional relationships.
Whatever sites a wholesaler decides to join, Lewis recommends they relax and have some fun with it. "Whether it is blog or a profile on a social network, you control the message."
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