Some networks are more formal than others, sometimes having administrators who coordinate activities and events within the organization, enforce governing bylaws of the membership, or collect membership fees annually. Other networks may not actually conduct business within themselves, but serve to gather people of like interests and bring them together. Meet-up.com is one such business network, and allows its online members who share the same interests and location to actually meet face to face.
Social Networking – The last two years have seen a substantial rise of social network activity and the growth of related sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace among others.
Since its purchase by Google, YouTube, has continued to become an immensely popular success story. The site allows amateurs, with little knowledge of the web and no software to download to facilitate participation, and literally anyone with a camcorder or camera/video phone to upload personal videos online and make an impression.
YouTube started as a place for friends and families to share videos, but with time, businesses and entrepreneurs began to see the importance of using YouTube to facilitate marketing and business networking. At the close of whatever type of video, publishers simply embed links or other contact information for their businesses or websites. With the immense volume of traffic to YouTube, this has developed into an extremely effective tactic. Social network sites exemplify the concept of viral marketing at its best.
Let’s look at another example. Facebook is another hugely popular site where friends can share interests, information, sell goods and services to each other, upload photos and videos and even join existing networks. Businesses which join Facebook, enter a world of virtually limitless opportunities and potential leads. As a result of their activities, members can experience a phenomenal surge in traffic to their websites or businesses.
The most important thing to remember about the advantages of online networking is that you can position yourself and your business to benefit from worldwide contacts and relationships, the potential of which is immensely greater than that to which you may otherwise be exposed. And the results of those connections can develop exponentially within short periods of time.
One last thing. In dealing with online networking (where you may rarely have the opportunity of meeting your partners face-to-face), it is especially important to focus on three fundamentals of good business: professionalism, courtesy and great customer service.
Excellent customer service skills can mean the difference in whether or not your business is recommended or selected for a contract or project. It also leaves a lasting impression on the people with whom you come into contact, helping them to remember you. With numerous online sites and portals, many businesses are engaged in competition with one another, and what may very well be a distinguishing factor is customer service and courtesy.
A few tips for business networking:
1. Create A Website-If your main business is offline, create an online presence with a website featuring an easy means of contacting you. Most offline businesses have now realized the advantages of having an online presence. A very large proportion of business is now conducted online and people usually go online to research a company before they conduct any business with it. These days, without a business website, it is impossible to fully tap into the benefits of business networking.
2. Business Cards-It may seem an archaic concept, but business networking, even for online businesses, should not be confined to the Internet. In order to succeed in networking, a business representative should have business cards as part of their marketing plan, which contain the basic elements of the business’s contact information.
3. Be Skilled In Customer Service-As stated earlier, customer service can make or break a company. With numerous businesses competitors, a crucial aspect is customer service.
4. Join Social Networks Online-We cited Facebook, YouTube, and My Space as excellent sites to join in order to generate exposure to your business, and there are of course many others including common interest groups and forums.