Social Networks and Your Business Goals

By now most people are familiar with some form of social network or another, whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, or the new FriendFeed. Nevertheless, navigating them can still be confusing from a business perspective. Fortunately, there are many simple ways you can use these networks to help drive attention to your business and reach new audiences.

1. Branded applications/widgets. Consumers are no longer just passive recipients of media. Take advantage of their interest and willingness to interact with their friends in fun, new ways. Being a subtle sponsor of viral social network applications and widgets can be an effective method for promoting your brand.

2. Become a fan/start a group. Networks allow you to reach out to other people based on similar interests, so take advantage of this by becoming a fan of your industry, your company, or your product and send fan requests out to your social graph. Or consider starting a group that will link people together to discuss product or company advancements. It’s also effective to highlight what’s new in the industry.

3. Post, post, post. The best thing about social networks (other than getting in touch with people you haven’t talked to in years) is the ability to utilize tools to broadcast the news that is most important to you. Launching a new product? Post it to your profile and share it with your friends. Found a great article that relates to a friend’s interest? Send it to a group or a few select contacts. By sharing news and information via networks, you can position yourself as an expert, which in turn fosters goodwill for your company.

4. Find talent. A significant number of companies are using the social network sites to find talent and to do research on potential employees. About 30% of the job market is represented by passive job seekers, many of whom can be found on social networking sites that they are using for personal reasons.

5. Reach friends of friends. Many social networks suggest people you may know based on your current relationships; take advantage of these suggestions to reach a new audience. However, be careful to consider the relationship—you don’t want to "friend spam" or send requests to people with whom you have no connection.

Last, but not least, be real. Social networks work to your best advantage when you can be yourself and truly relate to the people with whom you are connected. Using market-speak or hard-selling your product or business will turn your contacts off, and can often do more damage than good. But by being yourself and thoughtfully utilizing social network tools, you can reach new audiences and aggregate fans of your business.

Jeff Malkin CEO Razz San Francisco