Cyprus Living: Social networking builds internet business

Cyprus Living:  Social networking builds internet business

Article reprinted from Cyprus Living, January 2010 edition

Building an internet business from home depends on getting your story in front of potential customers.

The good news is an internet entrepreneur doesn’t need a big shop on the High Street to be successful. You can do it very effectively using social networking.

It’s well known that word-of-mouth is the most powerful method of promotion. The principle goes, get people talking about your company, and business will follow.

Social networking on the Internet is just like old fashioned word-of-mouth promotion – but turbo charged because you reach millions of people rather than just one or two.

It's about connecting with potential customers

Social networking on the internet is where people connect with each other, have conversations and develop relationships. Social network marketing is using those connections to educate people about your products or services. It’s about helping them learn to know, like and trust you – and in turn feel comfortable doing business with you online. Social networking on the Internet is growing exponentially, and comes in a variety of forms. There are the pure social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Then there’s the multi-media search engines dominated by YouTube and Flickr. And then there’s the specialist forums – Cyprus Living readers are probably familiar with AngloInfo and Expat Forum. All these play a crucial role in telling your story where your potential customers go on the Internet.

The second most visited website on the planet is Facebook

If you doubt the reach and effectiveness of social networking, think about this. The second most popular website in the world is Facebook. It’s second only to Google. It’s reached such a level in the UK that now one in every seven page views is Facebook. YouTube is right up there too at number four in the world. If you’re promoting a business on the Internet, these are statistics you can’t ignore. Everybody goes chasing ranking in Google. In our experience Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are just as important for an effective Internet marketing campaign.

How can a business use social networking?

Businesses often struggle using social networking effectively. Somehow it goes against accepted principles to be so open about your business. But being open and approachable is what social networking is all about. You’re setting out to build relationships – and that requires personality and being open to be successful. Your first goal is not a sale. That’ll come later when the relationship is built. While traditional forms of internet marketing focus on persuading or convincing your prospects to buy, the focus of social network marketing is different. It’s about building relationships – and the relationship always comes first. This is a difficult concept for traditional marketers to grasp in the beginning. You offer for free valuable, relevant information about your products and services. You want people to talk about you and you want people to look to you as the expert in your market. This ultimately leads to sales – but it doesn’t happen overnight.

People buy from people they know

Potential customers usually go through a number of stages before you can get them to a ‘buy now’ button they’re happy to click. For a social networking campaign to be successful, it’s important to understand each step and provide the correct kinds of valuable and useful information at each stage.

Connect

To make connections with people you need to stand out and get noticed. You do this by giving out useful, relevant and valuable information on as many social networks as possible. People in your target audience start to make a mental connection with you online.

Conversation

Conversation is the whole point of social media so if someone comments it's very important for you to comment back. They might comment on your blog or your Facebook wall – the important point is they’ve noticed you and they’ve started a conversation. Don't let that go unanswered.

Engagement

Engagement is when the person starts to engage with what you have to say. They begin to seek out your updates. They begin to see you as an expert in your field. They read your Blog posts and sign up for your RSS feed. They follow you on Twitter and visit your Facebook fan page. This is all good news – but still easy to damage by asking them to buy too soon.

Relationship

You know you’ve formed a relationship when your prospect begins to interact with your website and its content. This is the time to provide the most valuable and relevant content so they learn to know, like and trust you. Even now you’re not necessarily at a sale – evidence suggests they’ll be back a number of times before they’re ready to buy from you online. Make it easy for those returning visits to happen.

First sale

Eventually the first real buyer/seller transaction takes place. It’s important to make the process as simple and seamless as possible so your clients feel comfortable doing business with you in the future. The payment transaction should be easy to complete. If there are any problems keep in touch. If they are not satisfied do whatever is necessary to make it right.

Ongoing relationship

You’ve arrived. Your prospect is finally a client! They know, like and trust you and respect what you do based on the free content you’ve given offered them and the products or services they’ve purchased. If they see another product of yours they like, it will be a much easier decision for them to spend money. If you’ve made a really good impression they’ll now tell their friends about you and the process begins with the next person. The snowball starts to build…