Small Business and Social Networking
What You Need To Know: Social Networking/ Social Marketing is booming in small business and for the entrepreneurial. Blogs are covering multiple genres in business and marketing. Technology is a new tool for not only personal contact, but also for business contacts. Now is the time for small business owners to explore the business options on several social networks. It does not take a technology degree; a degree in computer engineering, nor a marketing degree it’s as simple as networking and gaining a basic understanding of using networking tools online.
The development of Web 2.0 tools allows for the extension beyond basic email and chat with tools like Yahoo Messenger and MSN Chat, but has expanded to other tools (protocols) that allow for interactivity, instant connectivity in Virtual worlds where business is the key ingredient.
The misconception for business success online is going online and joining every social network. Make friends, gain contacts and grow an email address database. Even if you build a network of thousands this may not work towards your business success. There needs to be a plan, a procedure and a process.
Defining Social Networks: A social network “is asocial structure made of groups that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, kinships, dislikes, conflict or trade” (http://www.wikipedia.org/). There are thousands of social networks online that are specifically for any ideology. There are discussions in an electronic format of more than just “what is your sign” or ”what restaurant to eat at” or “what club is the best to meet people”? Social Networks provide a platform to expand a presence and create a place digitally.
Importance of Content: Content is very important, content is king. Stated by Tiffany Duhart of Nokturnal Escape, “many business owners do not value the content of their social media sites. Businesses do not realize that all the fluff and pizzazz of Flash, Shockwave, music and incorporation of graphics goes away and the customer looks for content” (www.nokturnalescape.com/). Marketing a business online and establishing presence, information is the most important and how it is displayed. It can be seen on nokturnalescape.com the minimal use of graphics, but the use of content to drive
people to the site.
As I teach on the importance to content for businesses, many business owners think they can drive customers to their sites (which is true) with a lot of graphics, but this does not mean anything if a sale is not made. Having a web presence does not mean just having a web site, Facebook page, Ning Social Media site, Tweets from a Twitter page, nor a presence on LinkedIn. The goal is to have repeat visits and consistent sales. Content is what attracts potential customers and keeps their attention.
When businesses advertise on Nokturnal Escape they get a return on their money quickly because of the relationships Ms. Duhart has created. Social media is a tool to show what you are selling or the service you are providing. There is no compromise when it comes to the importance of content on social media sites.
Pervasiveness of the Internet: The interactive social networking scene has grown over the past 3 years. The explosion of the diversity of what is being called the Web 2.0 environment has allowed diverse communities to connect, work in partnerships and allow for peer collaboration on projects ranging in community development, political activism, minority affairs, religious activities and of course hobbies and interests. The Nielsen Company, showed through studies consumers spent about five and half hours on social networking sites ranging from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is an 82% increase from previous years when users were spending just over three hours on social networking sites. Looking at the globalization of social networks and blogs they are the most popular online category followed by online games and instant messaging. People have discovered through social networks there is no limit to what a person can participate in according to their curiosity and desires. This is why when addressing business interests a plan with routines and procedures is needed.
Politics Embraces Social Media: When President Obama ran for office the genesis was in using social media to welcome and inform young voters. Getting them involved by using a tool they used to communicate and socialize with. This was not ignored by others involved in politics, looking at a local election, the first African American Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida. The Alvin Brown campaign used social networks to spread the word to potentially young voters as well. Connecting with them on their level, encouraging them to make a difference by voting and to show that they could be “Down with Brown” and that candidate Alvin Brown “felt them”, the youths needs, frustrations, and failures of the past administration. The success of this digital campaign will be written and analyzed for years to come. Involved again is Tiffany Duhart sharing her expertise and knowledge that will not go unnoticed in future political circles and marketing circles.
Success Stories: Success stories can be found for many businesses, this focus in on three that use a web presence, Twitter, Facebook and Blogging. Looking at such businesses and their growth; E3 Business Group (e3businessgroup.org) headed by Anthony Butler, Sr. the Executive Director has embraced the power of social media. In just over two years E3 Business Group has over 70 business members and partnerships with 100 Black Men of Jacksonville, the Harlem Globetrotters, Taco Bell Foundation, and Boys and Girls Club of America just to name a few. The venture now is YAT- The Youth Achievement in Technology (YAT) summer program in Jacksonville, Florida providing an opportunity to guide youth into careers with the help of technology (www.e3businessgroup.us/training.html).
Nokturnal Escape (www.nokturnalescape.com/) the premier site for “What Is Happening” in North Florida. Managed by Tiffany Duhart of BlinkVirtualBuzz.com; Ms. Duhart is a force to be reckoned with in the Internet and Social Media Marketing and Promotion Business. Because of her expertise and business contacts the first place to go to for “Being in the Know” for events are Nokturnal Escape.
Journey Into Womanhood – Empowerment Resources (www.empowermentresourcesinc.org ) is a rites of passage program for girls ages 9-17, that focuses on their healthy transition from girl to young woman. The vision of Elexia Coleman-Moss, Founder and Executive Director; using a web presence, Twitter, Facebook and Blogging to share the contributions that this wonderful program provides to the community. The reach and influence of the program extends beyond Jacksonville, Florida. Helping to empower and educate girl in education, careers and maturity into women.
Dark Side of Social Media
There is a “dark side to social networking”. The Internet can be so pervasive in lives that we can no longer just think of it as a passing fad or luxury. In a social and cultural context, in order to be productive in a digital world we must understand this area of communication; it can be positive or create an avenue for negativity. All the praises of social media can be over shadowed by the potential of a dark side. Businesses are finding that the instantaneous sharing of information and opinions about companies and products is prompting businesses to influence conversations through technology and new ways of thinking. Businesses are victimized by social media sites and the words that are posted online. One example from 2008 Johnson & Johnson had to apologize for an online ad for its painkiller and the direction of its advertising. Customers now have a medium (tool) to criticize a product and communicate with millions in a matter of minutes. Causing a business to be reactive and employ damage control protocols that are not always successful.
Dangers Can Follow: Even in an electronic format there still remains danger, the opportunities to meet people may place one or both to unknown dangers and hazards. In the article, “Dangers of Social Networking”, by Tony Bradley (2007), sites allow the user to post pictures and video. A person can learn your likes, dislikes, places you like to travel, and daily routines. Predators and stalkers follow their potential prey first, looking for opportunities to attack either to do immediate harm, or snatching/kidnapping. The other option is to attack a person by stealing another person’s account. Bill Brenner who writes in,” Not Among Friends: The Dangers of Social Networks”, tells “one aspect that given enough time and information about a person, attackers can hijack a person’s social network account to use as a launching pad for additional attacks against other users. Keeping usernames and passwords secrete is very important. Businesses are in constant cyber attacks and take each cyber hit seriously. They must be sure that employees keep their identities and access codes secret. The Internet and Social Networks open up additional doors for espionage, theft, slander, and potential criminal activities.
Entrepreneurial Spirit: Establishing a connection on the Internet in the Web 2.0
and developing Web 3.0 environment allows for an entrepreneurial spirit to develop faster and go farther in implementation. Social Media is not for those who like established rules, conservative ideologies and slow moving actions. This media is ever changing and developmental. Looking at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, Nokturnal Escape and others; their implementation of Social Media and Social Networks has changed the rules of businesses. Even in the book Business at the Speed of Thought (Bill Gates 1999) Gates highlighted that in order for any business to be successful that business must embrace technology. I have read the book and listened to the DVD version several times. Business is a competition and the use of technology is a tool to get an edge. In order for any business to survive there should be an incorporation of business thought, technology implementation and integration.
Resources: Looking to expand your employee’s business knowledge of Social Media take advantage of the resources available. Don’t let your business suffer from ignorance of the power social media. Educate on social trends, tools, issues and dangers.
Information is Power – Content is King
William Jackson, M.Edu.
JETI – Jackson Educational Technology Instruction
(904) 502 3211
Social Media/Social Networking
Elexia Coleman-Moss, Founder and Executive Director
Journey Into Womanhood – Empowerment Resources www.empowermentresourcesinc.org
Is a rites of passage program for girls ages 9-17.