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There’s no doubt that social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are powerful communication channels and, for some companies, can be effective marketing tools. But, like any other marketing tool, it is important to use social networking for the right reasons.
Just because your competitors are doing it, it doesn’t mean you have to. Before jumping on the bandwagon, it pays to stand back and consider what social networking will do for your business. It’s not ‘one size fits all’; how well social networking will work for you depends, to a large extent, on the nature of your business and who your target market is.
For some consumer brands and individual sectors where there is a high interest, social networking can be a great way of spreading the footprint. However, there are some specialist brands and niche sectors that may not lend themselves as well to promotion via social networking.
As with any marketing activity, you should be clear who your target market is from the outset. Social networking may or may not be an appropriate way of communicating with the people you want to reach. Look at your current customers. Do they use social networking sites? How do they use them? Are they using any of these platforms to connect with businesses, or to seek information about products and services?
All this considered if you decide that social networking is a good way to promote your business, there are a number of factors to take into account. Firstly, setting it apart from other ‘events-driven’ marketing activities, social networking is a ‘process’ – it’s something that you need to commit to carry on doing. For this reason, it is usually better to think of social networking not as a ‘campaign’ but as a ‘conversation’ – building up a rapport and continuing dialogue with your market. By getting people talking about your business, social networking sites can fuel positive word of mouth, but they are not the place to do hard sales.
Finally, you must consider how social networking fits in with your current marketing strategy. While updating Facebook and Twitter sites regularly is time-consuming, taking away resources from other activities could set you back. Use social networking wisely. Add it to your marketing strategy but don’t let it take over.