Increasing buyers' awareness of your company and products is just one element of running a successful online business. In the search for more traffic, one should not overlook the potential that Social Networking Services present in achieving free and qualified traffic.
What Is Social Networking?
Wikipedia defines Social Networking Services like MySpace, Facebook, etc. as a service which, "focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software." The majority of today's social services are mainly Internet-based, and they provide a way for users to interact with each other through chat, messaging, video, email and more.
Social Networking Facts
Nielsen/NetRatings published the list of top social networking sites in September 2007 and compared it to September 2006.
In addition, ZDNet cited Hitwise reporting of social network traffic being up 11.5 percent during the period between January and February 2007.
Oftentimes, social network sites target a particular user demographic. For example, LinkedIn focuses on businesses, while sites like Facebook and MySpace are more general in their focus. Likewise, you should know that MySpace in particular is more popular in the U.S. and Canada, with moderate popularity worldwide. Understanding this will help you consider if this social network will work for you.
Gaining direct access to your target market and getting their attention starts first by setting up a profile with the site(s) that already attract your qualified user group. To find a social network or group of social networks which includes your intended target, go to wikipedia.com and perform the following search: "social networking sites." You will be presented with a long list of the various social networking sites, along with a brief description of the focus of each. Choose those which you feel fit your needs and setup a profile with them.
Once you have set up a profile for yourself on a network that encompasses your target market, you will be one step closer to generating free, qualified traffic for your product or service.
How Can SN Grow a Business?
In its short form, a social network is a community of people, "who share common interests and activities," and that can include products. Let me put it to you this way: What if someone told you where you could go to find a large group of people that shared a common interest that was directly or indirectly related to a product you sold? You would want to find out more about these people, and social networking services provide you with the ability to do just that.
The real value that a social networking audience can provide to your business comes not from purchasing advertising on those sites (although if your budget allows, this certainly can be an option), but from becoming part of their group. Become one of them and your interaction will fuel the fire.
Make a profile and get involved in the community by asking questions and answering them, engaging in discussion and keeping your profile up-to-date. Make sure your website analytics are "turned on," and begin gathering demographic data through analytics and research. Then, you can watch, track and group these community users into various customer segments as they relate to your business and products. By targeting those demographic users who fit your unique market segment, you can promote and bring awareness to your product or brand in an unobtrusive, polite and even helpful manner. Be careful not to force-feed your message to them though - delivery must be done in a helpful, non-invasive manner or it will fail.
By becoming one of the crowd and inserting yourself into their market segment (your target market), you give yourself the ability to communicate on a friend-to-friend level. Highlight product or service benefits which satisfy their individual needs. This can be one of the most important benefits social networking provides: bringing awareness to your business and subsequently increasing sales.
Social Networking Benefits
As a tool for marketing your business, some of the benefits of social networking are:
- Access to a growing market segment of Internet users passionate about the topics they share.
- Free source of qualified traffic if your approach is implemented properly.
- Access to code API's for developing even more integrated technical solutions to help attract qualified traffic.
Social networking, when used properly, can act as a form of viral marketing. Good experiences spread fast through social networks, having a ripple effect. Keep in mind, however, it takes time to build up character and trust and it only takes a few seconds to tear it down.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion expert and author of a leading Ecommerce Optimization blog (www.ecommerceoptimization.com). He coaches etailer's, wholesaler's, distributor's and manufacturer's how to increase their website sales through skillfully crafted online search advertising, targeted market strategies and website sales strategies. He can be contacted at 1-877-481-2323 or visit www.enhancedconcepts.com for more information.
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