by David Chapman
The landscape of the social networking world has changed over the last several years, as it’s not just teens and tweens who populate the Facebook universe, get up-to-the-minute updates from their friends via Twitter or connect with LinkedIn.
Now, more and more business owners are using the technological tools to promote and increase their businesses, too.
“What we’re seeing is evolution,” said Steve Waterhouse, founder and CEO of professional sales consultancy Waterhouse Group. “We’ve always done it (networking) but the kids figured out the (social networking) tools ... It’s really no different than going to an after-hour social or Chamber meeting, it’s just human activities we’ve put in technology.”
Waterhouse spoke of the benefits of LinkedIn, an online professional network, to a group of more than 200 during the recent Chamber Business and Career Expo, and noted how social networking – especially in the present economic conditions – can grow one’s business.
Seeing results can be just a matter of correctly implementing the process.
“It’s incredibly effective if you do it correctly,” said Waterhouse. “If you don’t have a plan, though, you can waste your whole day doing it wrong.”
The seminars at the Business and Career Expo were just one of the ways the Chamber is now promoting the use of the many social networking tools as an additional way to increase member’s exposure and business, said Cheryl Munn.
“It’s free with the exception of time costs,” said Munn. “It is a very good way for them to market themselves ... but you don’t just do social marketing, you’ve got to do everything.”
Business owners and adults in the 30-50 age range across the country have increasingly got on board with such social networking tools, said Jack Bienko, deputy director for entrepreneurship education of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
During a recent National Small Business Week conference, a seminar on the aspects of social networking was conducted to a capacity crowd. Information from such seminars, said Bienko, trickle down from the national level to the local levels and provide insight to business owners from across the country.
“It’s definitely being incorporated by us (at the national level),” said Bienko, adding: “I’m fairly confident they’re here to stay ... I think they’ll continue to evolve and help business owners market themselves better.”
The Chamber itself is getting on board with the concept, too. Meisha Joyce was hired as a full-time Web content coordinator and keeps the Chamber’s Web site, LinkedIn, Facebook and, most recently created, Twitter tools up to date for Chamber members and the public.
“The interest is definitely there,” said Joyce, on Chamber member’s response to social networking opportunities. “Every (Regional) Council will have a social media speaker visit them if they haven’t already.”
Janet Saunier opened Divine Divas, a women’s fashion store, with Nina Harvey a year ago and recently delved into the social networking aspect of marketing their business. So far, the results have been positive.
“I love Facebook,” said Saunier. “We’re relatively new to the scene, but one of the biggest differences we saw in terms of response was when we started posting pictures (of wares) on Facebook.”
Updating pictures on the social Web site around once a week keeps the store and merchandise in front of customers, said Saunier, and is an easy medium to access.
“It’s easy to utilize,” she said. “I almost feel it’s the wave of the future.”
Saunier more recently signed up for Twitter and uses the 140-character or less messages of latest happenings to quickly announce specials, new arrivals, different store hours and participation in events.
Agnes Lopez, owner of Agnes Lopez Photography, gets the majority of her business – close to 90 percent – online. She continues to be a big advocate for the social networking tools and has incorporated them into her business for the greater exposure – and it’s worked.
“I would say I’m where I want to be right now,” said Lopez. “I use Facebook and Twitter and its gives me access to people I wouldn’t have normally had access to... I’ve been contacted by magazines and others I’ve never met because they see my Web site from (social networking tools).”
Lopez said she’ll continue to embrace the technology to further her business, and like several other advocates, believes the marketing concept isn’t just a flash in the pan.
“From what I see it’s all business,” said Lopez. “I like to be ahead of the curve ... and using them (social networking tools) is a great way to communicate.”
According to the Daily Record’s “Question of the Week” last week regarding social networking tools, responders said they used Facebook more than Twitter and LinkedIn. Here’s a few fast facts about the leading vote getter. Statistics and information from Facebook.com unless otherwise cited.
1. Facebook was launched in 2004 by 19- year-old Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, who studied computer science, as a way to communicate more effectively with friends, family and coworkers.
2. The social networking tool has been banned in Iran prior to its June 12 presidential election, according to the Telegraph of the United Kingdom.
3. It has more than 200 million active users, more than 100 million log on each day and the fastest growing demographic are users 35 years old and older.
4. It has headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. but has U.S. offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York and Venice Beach, Calif. along with international offices in Dublin, Ireland and London.
5. It takes a few people to make the tool successful. The company has more than 850 employees.
6. Pakistani citizens are using the social networking tool to help combat terrorism, according to a recent article in the Times Online of the United Kingdom.
7. The average user has 120 friends on the site and more than 20 million users update their status each day.
8. More than 850 million photos, 8 million videos and 1 billion pieces of content are shared each week.
9. Around 70 percent of users are outside the U.S.
10. More than 30 million active users access Facebook through their mobile device.