Time to Startup!

The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.

How online social tools are changing business networking

Published on Dec 4, 2009

Summary

Read our article, 'How online social tools are changing business networking' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.

Business networking used to be all about becoming a member of a local professional club or group, and chatting up anyone that would listen to your elevator pitch. These tactics might still be beneficial in some applications, but now-a-days you're best off heading online.

According to a recent report by Forrester Research, Inc., four of five US adults who go online use social media at least once a month. They also found that the most rapid growth in usage was among adults 35 and older.

For today's small business owner there is a crazy amount of options available to them on the various social networking websites. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube are just a few of them. Each site has its pro's and con's, and better uses from a business perspective.

So how does a small business owner capitalize on all this chatter?

First off, don't just use one site for everything. Be sure to line up your intentions with the right site. For instance, if you are looking to make a connection with someone at a specific company you might use LinkedIn to connect from person to person until you finally reach the intended connection. If you simply want to announce a new product launch or a limited time promotion, tweeting it on Twitter would be a great place for that. If you have a training video or footage of any promotional appearances, YouTube is your best bet.

Keep in mind that there are always new sites popping up as well. Ryze.com is another business networking site, similar to LinkedIn, which may prove useful. If you do want to convert the online meeting to a face-to-face encounter you could try using Meetup.com. This site helps you find groups in your local area to join.

No matter which tool you use, networking online is still basically about back-and-forth communication or information sharing. Even though it's digital, some basic tenets of networking haven't changed:

  • Don't use technology to make a blanket sales pitch to thousands of strangers.
  • Don't use your public/business forums on sites like Twitter or Facebook for private messages - TMI!
  • Don't post negative comments on other people's blogs or on opinion web sites. Mudslinging is still mudslinging online - make sure your company takes the high road.
  • Do start online conversations by posting updates that will be interesting and of value to people.
  • Do use email or the phone for any private conversations.
  • Do ask people permission to send them email or various other e-newsletters/content.

Lastly, keep the conversation going by making sure to read other people's blogs, tweets, status updates, etc. In this way, you'll be able to stay connected to your peers and network with the best of them.