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Social Networking for Small Business

Kent S.
NewIowa
Des Moines, IA
Post #: 139
Myths and Risks of Social Networking
by Jake Swearingen

You know that connecting to colleagues online has real benefits, but there are some things holding you back. If you’re worried about wasting time, losing your privacy, or struggling with your technical skills, don’t be — most social networks are safe and easy to use. That said, there are a few genuine concerns to be on alert for. Here’s a rundown of what you do — and don’t — need to worry about when networking online.

The Myths
It will become a time suck. This will only come true if you let it. While the initial setup process may take part of an afternoon, once you’re up and connected to colleagues, a social network won’t require much time to maintain. In fact, your network can save you time by helping you find who you need quickly. Of course, any social network will require a modicum of attention and time in order for you to get the most of it. But then again, so does e-mail, and you’d hardly want to give that up.

I’ll lose my privacy. Nearly every social network has ways of ensuring that your profile data is only viewable to those you have invited to see it. A stranger browsing Google won’t be able to trawl for your email or contact info — unless you’ve put it in your public profile. And remember: You don’t have to list any contact info you’re not comfortable disclosing. Worries of identity theft are ill-founded as well, as even those within your network would never see information like your Social Security number, date of birth, or home address. Think of it this way: There’s already bountiful information about nearly everyone on the Internet these days. At least with a social network profile (which tends to rank highly on Google), you control some of it.

I’m not tech savvy enough. If you’ve managed to click on and read this story, you’re more than savvy enough to use any social network. It’s true that some sites, such as MySpace, can expect users to know basic HTML, but both Facebook and LinkedIn do all the heavy lifting for you. LinkedIn, in particular, uses a clear, simple interface designed with the site’s average user — aged 41— in mind. Filling out an online profile is just like typing a resume or filling out a form, one that’s decidedly simpler than, say, a 1040A.

The Risks
I’ll be deluged with spam. Nearly every social network implements safeguards to keep spam at a minimum. And nearly every social network fails to some degree. MySpace saw users abandoning the site in droves after spam artists started using profiles as bait for illicit websites. Facebook users are sometimes deluged when friends inadvertently send out requests to install applications. And users on LinkedIn have been barraged with promotional emails or requests for introductions from overzealous contacts. MySpace and Facebook are still struggling with the issue, but there's a quick fix for LinkedIn. If someone’s outreach gets a little heavy handed, you can easily remove the pest from your contacts without them even knowing. (None of the major social networking sites inform contacts when you remove them from your network.)

My personal and professional lives will collide. Who you are in the office can be very different from who you are outside of it, and online social networking can focus unwanted attention on that distinction. To avoid uncomfortable overlaps, make sure your contacts on LinkedIn are only those you know professionally. (Unless you’re both in the same field, it’s probably best to ignore your brother-in-law’s requests to link to you.) If you use sites like Facebook for professional networking, set up two separate accounts — one to meet with others in your industry, and another to keep up with friends from college.

My mistakes will come back to haunt me. A stain on your virtual record can be difficult to get rid of. Specious advice, passive-aggressive recommendations, a white lie about your job history — these things can stick around for years after the fact. And don’t assume that simply deleting your profile will fix the problem. Facebook faced a wave of anger from users this February after it was discovered that bits of old profiles remained even after users deleted them. (Facebook now says the problem is fixed). Just as with e-mail, think twice before you type.
Kent S.
NewIowa
Des Moines, IA
Post #: 140
Four Ways Social Networking Can Build Business
by Jake Swearingen

Social networking may sound fluffy, but it can translate into real benefits for you and your company. William Baker, a professor of marketing at San Diego State University, surveyed 1,600 executives and found that firms that rely heavily on external social networks scored 24 percent higher on a measure of radical innovation than companies that don't. Online networks can help you hire the right people, market your product — or even find a manufacturer. Here are four professionals who used social networks to change the game.

Finding Unexpected Collaborators

Tactic: Saverio Gentile, a visiting fellow in the neurobiology laboratory at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, had been using within3.com, a social network for doctors, to discuss medical journal articles. While mulling over a paper on nicotinic receptors, he connected with two researchers he’d never worked with before — though they were all in the same building. “Without the social network, even though we were a few meters apart, we would have never known we were all working on this,” Gentile says. Working together, Gentile and his newfound colleagues, Elaine Gay and Jerrel Yakel, discovered a possible mechanism that can explain why nicotine receptors work the wrong way when associated with congenital myasthenia gravis, a hereditary disease that causes severe muscle fatigue. Since gathering further data on the breakthrough, the group has been selected to deliver a paper on the subject at a Society for Neuroscience convention in November.
Building a Global Business From Scratch

Tactic: When Nick Kellet got in touch with a former co-worker through LinkedIn, he was interested to hear that she was teaching Chinese to the inventors of the board game Cranium to help them work with their factory in China. Kellet had recently left his job to publish a board game of his own, called GiftTRAP. His friend arranged an introduction to the factory owners in Shanghai, and soon Kellet had a manufacturer for his game. Next he turned to photo-sharing site Flickr and found images from more than 500 different photographers that he could legally use for his game. Once GiftTRAP had been produced, Kellet used social networks to find buyers at Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us. “It’s not easy to get into those places,” he says. “You get stonewalled at reception.” Then he plugged into BoardGameGeek to connect with influential players in the tabletop-gaming community and get his product into the hands of reviewers. The long hours online paid off. Games Magazine declared GiftTRAP the best party game of 2008; it has been translated into eight languages and is now in its third print run. Kellet isn’t done with social networking, either — he’s just developed a Facebook application that lets people play his game online.

Finding Talent in the Trenches

Tactic: LaunchSquad, a San Francisco PR firm working with freshly minted startups, has used social media to find potential job candidates who are skilled social networkers. “If we were going to attract the candidates with the skill sets we wanted, they had to be active within social media before they even came on,” says partner and co-founder Jason Throckmorton. “We began looking for people who were commenting on our client companies or things related to public relations.” Combing through Twitter, they found then-University of Oregon senior Megan Soto, who had tweeted about the virtual community Vivaty, a LaunchSquad client. A quick Google search turned up Soto’s blog, and the folks at LaunchSquad liked what they saw. The firm contacted Soto, interviewed her, and ultimately offered her a position, which Soto happily accepted. “She never would have found us unless we found her,” Throckmorton says.
Viral Marketing on the Cheap

Tactic: When Jennifer Wakefield of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission began social networking, she knew that film and media would be her target. “We have green nearly 365 days out of the year here in Orlando,” she says, which makes the city ideal for film shoots. She created profiles for metro Orlando on both MySpace and Facebook, sites popular with film and entertainment professionals. Meanwhile, the commission’s Suzy Spang Allen, VP of film and digital media development, uses Twitter to connect with others at industry events like South by Southwest, Sundance, and the Tribeca Film Festival. Wakefield reports that more eyes are already on Orlando: The number of producers scouting the Florida metropolis is up by 70 percent over last year.
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