Serious Internet Business Marketing Can Be Fun!
The fun marketing tools that many serious internet business owners miss are the social networking websites. There are large numbers of these sites – Wikipedia lists well over 100, the largest of which are MySpace with 246 million members and Facebook with (just!) 124 million members. All differ in detail, including subject matter, geographical focus etc – this article mostly focuses on features in Facebook, which is particularly suitable for marketing, but the principles are similar for all. Social networking websites are a great way to share stuff with others and they will build valuable relationships. And because doing good business is all about building credibility and trust, social networking websites can be some of your best friends in building a really serious internet business while having fun at the same time!
Social networking websites are a true internet phenomenon – use your own imagination to guess how many potential customers are to be found in their multi-million worldwide membership. There is a simple reason for this – they are FUN. And your business can ride this wave. No serious internet business can ignore this golden opportunity to create and maintain its customer base, and to promote and raise the profile of the services it offers. It is an ideal way for your delighted customers to post their testimonials, and for you to create a positive relationship with potential customers which can then effortlessly lead to sales.
Social networking websites provide you the means to maintain a contact list for all present and potential future customers, which gives you a simple means of marketing directly to ‘warm prospects’. Even simply updating your profile (for example, with news of updated or new products) can be automatically communicated to this list.
No-one wants a hard sell. Many business owners don’t realise that a serious internet business is best built up through ‘soft’ means – building personal contacts, encouraging trust by giving stuff away or helping others find useful resources which cost nothing. The more you can convince someone that you understand them and their problems, the more likely it is that they will turn to you for solutions. Social networking websites are an ideal internet medium for doing this, and can sit comfortably alongside ‘selling’ messages once that trust and personal connection has been established. And most important – if the customer experience is that dealing with you is FUN, the business benefits follow!
Summarising the key contribution that social networking websites can make to building a serious internet business:
Trust. The traditional idea of advertising is to establish a trust for a product – this can be very difficult for a ‘small business’ in the internet environment (but highly effective if achieved e.g. Amazon). However, social networking websites provide a means of establishing trust for the most important part of your business – YOU. Once this is achieved, any products associated with you have a built-in competitive advantage.
Visibility. The nature of search engines mean that the more presence (and links) you achieve through social networking websites, the more you will attract the right sort of attention from the search engines. And of course, your profile will link directly to your internet business.
Appeal. Let’s face it, no business will appeal to everybody – you don’t just want general visibility, you want to be seen by people who are interested in what you are offering. You can search for contacts with just the right sort of people for your business – but remember, the most unlikely people may just have their OWN contacts who are just what you need. Never write anyone off, build all the relationships you can handle.
Feedback. All businesses need feedback – good and (sometimes especially) bad – if they are going to be able to improve and grow. Provided it is responded to positively, actively and personally (rather than disappearing down a ‘customer services’ black hole), it can actually convert a dissatisfied customer into an enthusiastic one. And social networking websites can help this process enormously by putting a real ‘human face’ onto your business.
Relationship with customers. You can deal personally with customers, quite unlike many ‘faceless’ online (and offline) businesses. You can talk directly to them and build a long-term relationship. Even if this does not result in more business with them directly, you can be sure that the messages they pass on will definitely be good for business!
The only downside is the time it can take to build and continually maintain the quality relationships which are so important, especially as your contact list grows – but luckily, there is a golden key to unlock the power of social networking websites….
In short, there is a fantastic opportunity to multiply the effectiveness of social networking websites a thousand-fold due to the power of the internet, by recruiting and training an army of trained ‘affiliates’ i.e. people whose mission is to increase your sales, because they only get paid if they do! This is not only no-risk (as they only cost you when they have brought more money than they cost into your business) but effectively means you can leave the marketing to them! If they each use social networking websites in the ways described above, your profile will be raised sky-high! Not only will there be separate independent promotions of your business, but they can all create links which will massively increase your profile on the search engines. Affiliate marketing is the most outstanding way to build a serious internet business – not just through social networking websites, but in a host of ways (see resources below).
And don’t forget – have fun!