*are referenced at the bottom of the blogg post.
With the recent growth of social networking into an online persona where users can interact virtually with peers, co-workers, and real-world strangers; it is no wonder why online professionals are perking their ears to any ideas to utilize this as a tool for marketing.
What is social networking?
"A social network is a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values, visions, idea, financial exchange, friends, kinship, dislike, conflict, trade, web links, sexual relations, disease transmission (epidemiology), or airline routes. The resulting structures are often very complex.
In its simplest form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being studied. The network can also be used to determine the social capital of individual actors. These concepts are often displayed in a social network diagram, where nodes are the points and ties are the lines."*
So in the case of online social networking individuals, groups, or companies join together share ideas and interact on a personal level. I'm sure the first sites many of you thought of reading this blog are facebook, myspace, multiply, plaxo, or interactive blogging sites like digg.com. Those sites can be just the beginning of this interactive adventure to learn more about the world around you and the people you know. Social networking is also part of many users every day lives in the form of diary blogging*, interactive job hunting, and knowledge sharing sites like Pownce.com. Frequent updating via text/mobile/and Im to diary blogging sites like Twitter.com help you remotely stay connected to your friends, family, and co-workers. You can use these lines of communication to both send and recieve updates from your friends by posing/answering the question "what are you doing right now."
The best part about many of these sites is that they are starting to recognize one another and allow users to connect information from one medium to another. This is helpful if many of your friends are less technology savvy or if you find one site helpful in one way and another useful in another, but want all the same information stored on site a and site b.
How can this be helpful to businesses and advertising agencies like Risdall?
In the past year I have joined probably close to fifty social networking sites, blogs, micro blogs, social management sites, interactive podcasts, and professional links. Why? For a multitude of reasons starting with you never know which of your contacts prefers myspace over facebook. You never know what the next big convenience is unless you seek it our, or have some very active friends who send them to you. Facebook started fresh and through referrals it boomed.
Beyond the social aspect of these sites, social sites and blogs are a key tool for learning, and a great way for professionals to share essential tools to make your job easier. Podcasts, like blogs and microblogs, are a wonderful way to get a quick taste of whats new and upcoming (such as diggnation or tech toys). They also offering ongoing tutorials for tough programs or codes that you can't find many classes for (like php– which is an essential web code and is often self taught).
Now as far as business and search engine optimization goes websites can be great expansion tools. How? Each of the sites I join offer the opportunity to list my favorite links, referral to sites, and sometimes give me the opportunity to request/offer my own reviews. In a technical world this can be a helpful way to develop your site's organic search rankings.
In case you don't already know search engine optimization (or organic searches) and search engine marketing (cost per click, pay per click, pay per acquisition, and banner ads) are the primary source of every web site new and sometimes return users. An organic search is when someone goes on their preferred search engine (google, yahoo, ask, msn) and types in a keyword impression. The links and page descriptions in the middle are organic searches, and make up 75% of all user impressions. The links and page descriptions on the right, as well as at the highlighted links at the top of each search, are normally cost per click advertisements. Everytime someone clicks on those links the owner of the ad pays (generally between .30USD and $15.00). Which explains in a nutshell why FREE organic searches are so important.
Now how does this relate to social networking? Simple, even if you don't have a website you can enter into your favorite links or URLs a mailto: hyperlink directly to your business address. Since your friends trust you over advertisers, and your friends friends will trust their friends judgement well any links you write a referance for — they are more likely to look up. Even if your friends or people that stumble on your page don't check out those links, webcrawlers will. A webcrawler is an internet spider sent out by search engines to look at every site's meta data (meta tags, keywords, title, and links) this meta data determines how important and relevant a page is. The more relevant (and more references or links you have from other pages to your page) the higher your page will be ranked. The higher your page is ranked in search engines– the better placement your page gets. Which means your page could be the first five links listed on a search vs. on the tenth page of listings. If your website is on the tenth page– how many users do you think are going to find your page in their searches? Well I would say not many– or only the most patient people willing to look through 100 other pages first, and by that time they are going to be a little bored at best.
* Twitter: What are you doing?
Social networking and microblogging service utilising instant messaging, SMS or a web interface.
*Social networking reference from Wikipedia