Smaller businesses usually face the difficulty of having their voices heard in the market today. While traditional marketing and advertising methods cost a lot more than many of these firms can afford, an effective alternative has arisen that is both efficient and cost-effective: marketing through social networking. One of the most difficult challenges smaller businesses face is having a bigger presence in the market. While many of these companies offer good, quality services at much more affordable rates, they are many times overshadowed by larger firms that have bigger budgets to spend on marketing, advertising, and the like. Things have changed, though, with the advent of social networking. What was once a simple, social, get-to-know-each-other tool between people on the internet has now evolved into a tool that small businesses can take advantage of in order to get their voices heard. The gist of social networking for business is the simple concept of reaching potentially millions of people at a mere fraction of what is normally spent on advertising and traditional marketing. The wide reach of social media allows businesses to find their voices and showcase what they can do. The playing field then moves from an unfair balance of advertising budgets to a battle of service quality and value for money, as it should be – and many smaller firms can compete effectively in this arena. There are many ways to tap into the social networking phenomenon to boost your online presence and aid in your marketing. If you are interested in knowing more about this, please contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you in developing strategies that fit your specific requirements and needs.
As the social networking phenomenon continues to grow, not only for personal use but for business purposes as well, business email staple MS Outlook now allows for integration with popular social networking websites. Outlook has long been the staple in many business communications – it is truly one of Microsoft’s feats of genius given how prevalent it is in professional correspondence between businesses and organizations today. In order for the platform to conform and adjust to current norms, the people behind MS Outlook have now integrated social networking into the entire system through what they call the Outlook Social Connector (OSC). What the Outlook Social Connector basically does is enable the user to connect his or her email account with his or her LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Windows Live accounts. You’ll be able to receive updates from these social networking websites through MS Outlook. Outlook Social Connector is compatible with versions of MS Outlook beginning with 2003 and up, and boasts features such as adding friends into social networking websites through the new Outlook People Pane, as well as receiving updates from friends and contacts whose email address is also listed in their social network account. Also, like a social network, the OSC allows you to set privacy settings and select the kind of information you want made public.
Internal social networks help when you need to cascade and disseminate information within the company, but you also need the right policies and management to use these networks right. One of these purposes is the creation of internal social networks which, in a nutshell, improve communication and information sharing within the organization. While some may worry about how employees will behave when such a mechanism is put in place, the results have generally been positive – employees view internal social networks as an extension of the workplace, and as such are usually at their best (albeit informal) behaviour. Still, it is wise to have a policy in place that governs the use of your internal social network. Experts suggest drawing from existing IT / email / external social networking rules that are already in place, and simply extending and adjusting the policy to include points specific to the use of the internal social network. Also, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer to avoid any legal obstacles or problems in the future. Experts also recommend that department heads be given administrative duties in the social network, since smaller companies can ill afford to hire a person to manage it full time. So in the same way that a marketing manager, for example, handles the marketing department, he/she can also moderate discussions and topics within the social network that pertain to marketing and related issues. Overall, internal social networks provide many benefits to companies that use them, but proper management and handling is needed. Always remember that unlike external social media platforms, internal ones are directly under your control and are a part of your organization – use them well in order to better and more efficiently achieve the goals you’ve set for them.
In a report by security firm Websense , an alarming rise in the growth of malicious websites was identified in 2009 as compared to 2008 – almost 225 percent. The study also found an increased focus among hackers and spammers on targeting social media sites such as blogs and wikis. Social media or so-called Web 2.0 sites allow user-generated content , which can be a source of vulnerability. Researchers identified that up to 95 percent of user-generated comments to blogs, chat rooms, and message boards are spam or malicious – linking to data stealing sites or to downloads of malicious software . Email also continues to be a target for malicious activity with tens of thousands of Hotmail , Gmail and Yahoo! email accounts hacked and passwords stolen and posted online in 2009, which resulted in a marked increase in the number of spam emails. For our clients on our Managed Service plans, we work hard to ensure your systems are protected from harmful or malicious activity coming from the Internet. If you’re not under our Managed Service plans perhaps now is a good time to talk – let’s make sure your systems are safe in 2010. Related articles Top search results riddled with malware (v3.co.uk) Email phishing attack spreading say experts (telegraph.co.uk) Fraudsters Go Phishing For Victims’ Friends (news.sky.com)
As a busy small business owner, you may not have had time to learn much about social networks. Or, you may think that social networking is just a way that teenagers “meet” other teenagers through the internet using applications like FaceBook or MySpace . However, many small businesses have found that social networks are a great way to get new customers and retain existing ones. According to Forrester Research (November 2008), membership levels in the leading social network sites are as follows: Bebo : 40 million Facebook : 120 million LinkedIn : 30 million experienced professionals representing 150 industries MySpace : 110 million Reunion : 32 million Second Life : 16 million Twitter : 5.57 million What is social networking? Social networking web sites allow you to connect with friends, family, and colleagues online, and to meet people with similar interests. The largest social networking sites have millions of members. Common to most social networking sites is the viral nature of building contact or friend lists and sharing with them. It is an exponential process. Mary knows ten people who each know ten more people – and soon there is a network of hundreds of people communicating with one another about what is happening in their lives. When new members join a social networking site, they provide profile information about themselves and their interests. They also have the option to join groups that have similar interests within the social networking space. For example, on MySpace there are 34 group categories, each with tens of thousands of separate groups. Many individual groups have over 10,000 members. People in the groups and forums provide information to one another about their experiences and thoughts. For a small business, the utility of social networks comes from these groups with similar interests. Here is a sample comment about a local dentist I found on a recent forum post: “Awesome Orthodontist (name withheld)! He’s got a great staff and they all have a great sense of humor … I live downtown Dallas and it’s worth the drive”. This type of unsolicited endorsement, read by potentially thousands of people, is worth much more than a paid ad. Social network members will trust words from people just like them more than they will believe slick advertising or yellow page listings. Social networking success story This recent news story illustrates the power of social networking: “ Electoral triumph built on a Web revolution ”. As Barak Obama considered running for President of the United States, he had a meeting with Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook. Obama wondered if social networking could help him. “It was like a guy in a garage who was thinking of taking on the biggest names in the business,” Andreessen recalled. “What he was doing shouldn’t have been possible, but we see a lot of that out here and then something clicks. He was clearly supersmart and very entrepreneurial, a person who saw the world and the status quo as malleable.” The rest, as they say, is history. How your small business can take advantage of the power of social networking Tune in to what is being said about you on social networking sites. If someone asks a question that is within your expertise – help them. Track online comments about your organization or your products. If there is misinformation, provide corrections. Register with LinkedIn – this is a site specifically committed to linking businesses and professionals. Join in. Add your own comments to the blogs or upload short videos. Who is more qualified than you are to talk about your company? Small business owners are very busy people, and monitoring and interacting with social networks may seem like another task on your already full plate. This is where your IT consultant can help. By setting up monitoring and tracking alerts on your system, you can optimize the time you spend on these important activities. Your IT consultant may also suggest software services that help you assess the return on your investment.