To create a successful IT enterprise story, you can't ignore or underestimate the power of social networking. Bluntly put, social networking means marketing yourself (in this case, your enterprise) the way you'd wish your clients, in fact, potential clients to see you.
A firm is only as strong as its network, and in this era of the Internet, social networking has acquired a new meaning due to certain websites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Flickr, Linkedin, etc. If you neglect the prowess of such social networking sites, you run the risk of either running your enterprise down the drain or restraining it to a limited sphere in a seemingly limitless world. Either way will not be an ideal scenario for any enterprise. Bluntly put, if you'd like to see your enterprise grow, you must be social when it comes to networking.
Before we begin, let us look at some of the steps that your enterprise should take in order to derive the maximum benefits from social networking:
Viral marketing, at its most basic level, includes steps taken to generate awareness about an enterprise, in the form of video clips, images, games/softwares, text messages, etc. It goes with saying that people on social networks are not homogenous – they come from different backgrounds and show diverse tastes and interests. However, if you can succeed in capturing their attention, it will only be a matter of days before your enterprise's popularity spreads like wildfire. The viral campaigns are, arguably, the most effective way to increase the popularity of an enterprise entity with little efforts.
So how does one go viral? Well, assuming you choose Facebook as the platform (with over 500 million active users, it isn't a bad choice, after all). Facebook offers you the option to create fan pages for your enterprise, followed by adverts in the right hand side of the page layout. Keywords ensure that your ads are visible to only those who are interested, not every second random person. So if your enterprise is about 'design', then your page is likely to show up to designers, artists and other art-oriented people on Facebook. This is just one example, as each social network offers more than one ways of running a viral campaign for enterprises and organizations.
Make them aware!
It is easy to generate awareness about a social cause, but the logical (and obvious) question here is, how does one do the same for an enterprise? The biggest mistake here is to create a profile for your enterprise, and stop there. Unless you keep that profile updated, it won't create much effect. Therefore, creating a profile that is consistent with the way you'd like your enterprise to be perceived is crucial, but so is ensuring that you maintain that very consistency in terms of words and actions on the social network. Not everyone has time to bother with flow-of-thoughts and thus, unless you tell your enterprise story in a gripping manner, it won't cast much effect.
From an enterprise's point of view, the benefit of having a presence on such social networks is the multiplier effect these community sites can have on the number of clients. However, if you restrict yourself to simply telling 'how good you are', chances are you won't see any multiplication happening around you. Apart from that, you also need to acknowledge 'how good others are'. Even when you are merely socializing with others at these sites, you should like, share and propagate the info about others. If you are do that well, it is likely others too shall do their bit in spreading the word about you or your enterprise. In this way your enterprise shall grow in its online presence and attain greater promotional potential all along the way! The contacts made and links established over the social network on the Internet are potential channels for your business to exhibit its goods and services.
Be good to others!
The more friends you have, the easier it gets to wage a war – that's an old Korean proverb! Wars apart, it holds true on the Internet as well. In the social networking sphere, every step that you take actually counts towards increasing the marketing effectiveness of your enterprise. Fact of the matter remains that people are more likely to do business with you if they've heard a great deal about you, and they are more likely to hear good things about you if you've done your bit towards creating a good network and relations with others on the turf. Social networking is a good way to create new contacts, but the way your enterprise handles those contacts lies in your hands.
There are hundreds of social networking sites out there. It defies comprehension if you create a presence on each of them but fail to maintain any of them. The better route will be to opt for certain big ones, followed by a few that cater to your genre of audience. For instance, Facebook and Twitter are demi-gods of social networking, followed closely by LinkedIn. On a similar tone, Myspace has many users but is more geared towards the entertainment industry and thus will probably not be the greatest choice for an IT enterprise. Again, Orkut, though extremely popular in India and Brazil, has not been the leader when it comes to helping IT enterprises establish their social networking presence. Therefore, the best picks in this case shall be Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, as they are all flocked by millions of users with diverse interests and have special tools dedicated solely to promotion of enterprises.
That should suffice with the benefits of social networking for enterprises. Moving on to cater to the nitty-gritty of things, let us take a closer look at some of the major social networking sites, namely Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and how your enterprise can exploit each of them to the optimum:
LinkedIn is a networking tool that enables you to find suitable job candidates, industry experts and potential business partners. If you're into statistics and figures, you should know that the average number of LinkedIn connections for people who work at Google is 47. And the importance of LinkedIn can be gauged from the fact that all 500 of the Fortune 500 List of Companies are represented on LinkedIn, with 499 of them being represented by director-level or above employees. Needless to say, it is definitely worth the trouble to create a presence on this network of over 8.5 million users. Even though LinkedIn itself is not free, the services it offers to IT enterprises are definitely worth the price.
The grand-daddy of social networking when it comes to enterprises, organizations and businesses, LinkedIn has several terrific features, such as:
• Updates on what your clients (and competitors) are up to,
• Tab Feature lets co-workers search and interact with one another easily
• The News Section provides info about employers, industry trends, etc.
• The Q&A Section comes in handy for sharing information and expertise easily (in short, collaboration).
• Groups, that allow members to have real time conversations
• Events, that can correspond to real life events, such as conferences and seminars
• Company profiles, that ensure that your enterprise is viewed the way you want it to be
Obviously, it is gonna take some efforts to get your enterprise noticed. For a start, try Google Page Rank. At LinkedIn, you can take steps to ensure that your page gets a better Google Rank. First up, create a public profile and select “Full View”. Next, modify the default LinkeIn long URL to something shorter (your username, etc generally).
Who can challenge the paramount influence of Facebook in the field of social networking? With over 500 million active users (that's one in every fourteen human beings on earth), Facebook is the undisputed lord of social networking sites. Needless to say, any enterprise that succeeds in tapping Facebook for its benefit can receive unprecedented attention.
We all know that Facebook offers a plethora of options for an enterprise to promote itself, be it Fan Pages, Interest Groups, or even advertisements. The question is, how do you take those options to the next level?
Here are some of the ways:
1. Advertise! Simply because there are no alternatives to good publicity. Adverts on the right hand side of Facebook ensure that your Page is accessible to millions of FB users out there.
2. Use Facebook as your Page, not yourself: Generally, it is a good idea to be 'dedicated' to the promotion of your enterprise on Facebook. FB offers you an option of using the service as the page itself, not as an individual. This allows you to have better concentration on the promotion of your page (rather than Farmville). You can also consider creating a separate account for this purpose if you're interested in retaining your personal profile.
3. Insights: This is the latest addition to FB Pages. Modelled on Wordpress.com stats feature, it gives you graphical and statistical info on the number of users and the activity level of your Page. By letting you see the most popular posts over a period of time, this comes in very handy when assessing the mood of your target audience. For instance, in the given example, I noticed that posts/articles related to Libyan/Egyptian crisis were more popular than Russian corruption in the month of March, and therefore decided to model the content of The Balkan Chronicle (the website for which the sample Fan Page is) on the basis of these stats. In fact, if used constructively, the Facebook Page stats feature almost nullifies the dependance on separate statistics generator for the website itself. Why? Because FB represents the interest of the general Internet surfer at his/her most relaxed and casual mood.
Twitter is one of the fastest rising websites on the Internet, and it has given the concept of micro-blogging a new look and appeal. Apart from personal updates, Twitter has proved a boon for enterprises to promote themselves. Whether it is the growth record, or the latest trends in technology, tweeting is a simple and effective way for enterprises to grab the attention of newer audiences. For smaller issues, Twitter provides an effective interface for enterprises to interact with their clients. Furthermore, Twitter's USP lies in the fact that it has made it easier for enterprises to update the clients and entrepreneurs about issues of relevance. Lastly, so far, hardly any well planned viral campaign on Twitter has failed to do well!
A good idea when using Twitter is to tweet not just about your enterprise but also about news stories related to your field of work. For instance, any general news about IT and recent happenings is tweet-friendly, for your audience will surely be interested in IT itself, apart from your enterprise.
Internet presence has become extremely vital for any IT enterprise, and so has presence on social networks. The success of social networking for enterprises depends on the response given by the target audience, which in turn is directly proportional to the way in which the enterprise projects itself. Gone are the days when social networking profiles were mere gimmicks, as in the present context, it has become absolutely necessary that an enterprise should project itself on the Internet in the exactly professional manner as it does in real life. So gear up, and see the popularity of your enterprise soar new heights!