Turn Your Website Into a Social Networking Machine

Key strategies for tapping into your customer base

help convey that person’s true personality and goals.

Break It Down Into Chunks

If the thought of posting information about wine tastings and employees’ children online raises red flags in your mind, you’re not alone. According to Cutler, plenty of business owners are overwhelmed at the thought of adding social networking to their existing Web presences. “Facebook alone is this giant social network that’s growing at lightning speed,” Cutler says. “Figuring out how it relates to your business isn’t easy.” To help her clients tackle the challenge, Cutler says she helps break the task down into a few basic steps. A small retailer could start by simply sharing images and discussion of a recent holiday customer appreciation party, while a service firm might provide photos and commentary around a recent race that it sponsored. The idea is to get customers and potential clients involved beyond simply viewing your Website,” and to get them interacting with your company in a more relaxed, social environment,” Cutler adds.

Use Time Management Techniques

Constantly inundated with new technology and marketing tools, many business owners feel that adding social networking to their existing Websites will only take up more time that they don’t have to spare. “They think that if they join one network, that they’ll get 50,000 e-mails from all of the other social networks,” says Lacy, who advises companies to select four networks (such as LinkedIn, ActiveRain, MySpace, and Facebook), and to dedicate at least one employee to the task of checking in with the network daily. Prioritize the networks according to their usefulness (Facebook for educating and proving information, and LinkedIn for business development, etc.), and spend 30 minutes every day interacting with others and updating your networking online. In return for their efforts, Lacy says companies can expect to have higher visibility and “trusted adviser” status within the various networks that they’re involved with, and within their respective industries. “It’s all about connections,” Lacy says. “The more referral partners you have and the more connections you make, the better the chances that you’ll forge strong relationships that you need to get your company to the next level.”

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