How To Use Social Networking Websites to Market Your Business

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Judy Merrick-Lockett of Smooth Sailing Business Coaching recently asked me an intriguing question:

“Have you found any way to use social networking websites to get more business?”

And I had to answer that, aside from the obvious of making sure I had pages on some of the social networking sites for the links back to my business website (Google likes links from social networking sites), I really hadn’t.

The question got me thinking. How could I use social networking and social bookmarking sites to create more business for So I started doing some research. Some of it I read or downloaded off of websites and blogs. Some of it I paid for in the form of reports and ebooks on social marketing.

The following article is the results of my social marketing research and spells out how I intend to use social networking and bookmarking web sites as part of’s marketing plan.

First, you have to ask the right questions…

1. Do I really understand what social marketing is?

2. Is the return on investment in time and money worth it?

Sometimes I look at the definitions of social marketing that people give on blogs and websites and I wonder if they are business owners or social psychologists. Because from a business owner’s standpoint, I couldn’t care less about “social engineering through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” or “the interactivity leading to social connectivity”.

I don’t know about you but as a business owner, I want to move targeted people to my website and get leads and sales.

Here’s my general definition of social marketing:

"Creating relationships with your customers, clients, potential customers and potential clients through online conversations, web and Internet connections, and participating in interactive communities."

Now, there’s also a much more hard-core definition of social marketing you need to be aware of:

"The monitoring and manipulation of online communities, bookmarking sites and news and content aggregators."

The first definition is more appropriate to mid to large sized firms who need to establish themselves across the online and offline spectrum through branding. For small business, it’s definition number two because we need to be a bit more mercenary.

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It’s all about the Return On Investment…

Small businesses don’t have the time or resources to run a true social marketing campaign. That said, you’re reading part of my social marketing right now. I publish a regular blog and newsletter as part of my social marketing campaign.

I also do a lot of networking and every time someone gives me their business card, my attorney told me that’s an open invitation to legally add them to my newsletter list. That’s how a lot of you got on this list.

This keeps me “front of mind” for a lot of people who meet me, and it keeps me fresh in their minds concerning what I do and how I can benefit them.

I also write my own articles and regular blog so people feel a connection to me and learn a little more about me in the process. This establishes trust.

My blog is good social marketing for me...

My blog, WordsmithBlog, regularly adds content to my web site which the search engines love. It tells them that my site has fresh content for people to read and that my web site is a useful resource for people.

I also put plenty of links to associated and additional content and articles on my site to draw people deeper in and convince them I’m the person they want writing their web site content or doing their search engine optimization.

I also have a "bookmarking" link at the end of each blog entry so that if people find my blog post useful or interesting, they can add it to their favorite bookmarking site for others to find. You can find a free service to add "bookmarking" to your blog posts or articles at

In other words, you need to think about what kind of social marketing works with your current style of marketing and how to integrate it into your current marketing plan (assuming you have one). Don’t do it just because it’s the “hot ticket” right now.

Blogging Tip: If you choose to blog, don’t blog in a vacuum. Bookmark a list of other blogs related to your industry and start reading and commenting on them regularly. Most of them will allow you to link back to your website.

Make your comments insightful and helpful, adding a new perspective or information to the discussion. Then when people come across your comment, they are going to follow your link back to your blog or website. Voila! A potential new client or customer discovers you.

Blogging and newsletters are “old school”. Let’s talk about Flicker, You Tube, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah…

If it sounds like I’m not all that enamored with some of these sites, you’re right. This is where the “rose-colored glasses” need to come off and we get down and dirty.

Flicker and You Tube are what I call “garages”. Great places to “park” your videos and pictures rather than on your website. Then you can simple "embed" the videos in your website so you don't have to host them.

If you’ve chosen to add videos to your website, don’t just do it because it’s cool. Know why you’re doing it. Make certain there’s a legitimate desire from your visitors to sit and watch an informative video.

If you’re in the coaching business, have short videos on your website so people can see you in action and get a taste of what your lectures and classes are like. That is a great use of video.

If you’re a manufacturer or repair shop and you want to show potential customers your facilities, some of your processes or machinery, that’s another great use of video. And of course, educating clients is another excellent way to use video.

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Say you’re a roofer and you’re trying to convince people there’s a difference in products which is why you cost more than low-ball roofers. Create a video graphically demonstrating the difference between the products you use and “they” use.

Remember the mattress commercial with the guy jumping up and down on the mattresses with a glass of wine on the bed? That’s a graphic demonstration.

Remember, video is a graphic form. I don’t know how many bad videos I’ve seen on You Tube with some guy sitting in front of his web cam talking to the screen. I have yet to make it through one of those. Make sure there are graphics, visual demonstrations, and movement to keep your visitor entertained and educated.

Let’s Talk About MySpace…

I think the best example I’ve seen of someone utilizing MySpace for promotional purposes is LogoMotives. This is how CEO Jeff Fisher of LogoMotives explained his use of MySpace for promotion on his blog:

“MySpace drives more traffic to my web presence and blogs than any other social networking site I've used. It allows a detailed profile, image storage, blogs - which I use to post my blog headlines with links back to my own blog sites - forums and actual social networking.

MySpace is much more than simply social networking for teenagers. I have eliminated most interaction not directly related to my book and my work with the posted statement: The primary purpose of this MySpace page is to discuss and promote various aspects of graphic design.”

Here's a look at LogoMotives MySpace page...

Image of LogoMotives MySpace page

You’ll notice this is not Jeff Fisher’s MySpace page. It is LogoMotives’ MySpace page.

FaceBook should also be part of your Social Marketing plan…

But Jeff hasn’t stopped there. Not only does he have links to his blogs and website from his MySpace site, but he also has this page linked to his FaceBook page.

You may have heard that FaceBook is just for college kids. Not anymore. The average age of people listed on FaceBook is 41. That pretty much opens it to everyone.

Here’s what Jeff has to say about his FaceBook page…

“Facebook is probably my favorite social networking site. For me it's actually fun, in addition to providing a great opportunity for posting a detailed profile - with links back to whatever sites you wish to post, networking, image galleries, article posting capabilities, blog auto-feeds, and much more. Again, it's very effective in driving web traffic my way.

A design industry editor once asked, "Isn't Facebook just for college kids?. My response was: "Have you visited Facebook lately?" It's amazing who in the design industry is making use of the resource as a marketing and promotion tool.”

Here's a look at LogoMotives FaceBook page...

Image of LogoMotives FaceBook page

LinkedIn – another business networking site you shouldn’t ignore…

Jeff also talked about using LinkedIn. This is a business networking site so ignore it at your peril. While it’s a bit clunky to use, it’s still important to have a complete profile there and link as often as possible.

I have a Bob McClain LinkedIn page and it’s completely filled out. However, I need to join more groups. There’s also a page for asking questions and it’s a great way to get attention on LinkedIn.

I’ve only turned down one link offer on LinkedIn. It was from someone who obviously was just collecting links and I couldn’t even tell what business he was in. My next plan is to create a WordsmithBob page on LinkedIn.

Here’s Jeff Fisher’s LinkedIn page:

Image of Jeff Fisher's LinkedIn page

Biznik is a business networking site I’d never heard of…

I will have to add a page for on Biznik. It’s another opportunity to network with other business people online and also create more links that lead back to my business website, blog and newsletter articles.

Here’s what Jeff had to say about Biznik:

“Business networking that doesn't suck - is one of the most user-friendly social networking/media sites. It's easy to connect with other members and to create an actual dialog with them.

The detailed profile, ability to post articles and other aspects make it a value resource for the independent business person. Local "real world" networking events are an added benefit. As in many of the examples, there are additional benefits with paid memberships.”

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Here are a list of other networking sites you should join and post a profile on. Remember to try to keep a consistent image across all of the sites including using the same picture of yourself. Start linking with other people, commenting on their blogs and establishing dialogs with them.

You have to do more than just "post a page"...

Remember…the more of these sites you have a page on, the more Google will notice you and the more other people will notice you. Also, the more you comment on other people’s blog posts on these sites, the more notice you will get. The more articles you post on your sites, the more notice they will get.

It’s all about getting more links, getting more connections, getting more content up on the web, and creating an interconnecting “web” of attention. And every time you make another one of these moves, people take notice and you get more attention and more targeted traffic.

TIP: Quick suggestion. If you have a website, hopefully you have a list of keyword phrases that you believe people are typing into Google to find you (or your competitors). Set up a Google Alerts for each of your keyword phrases and when Google will tell you where they are popping up. Go there and see what all the fuss is about.

Use that information to better target your marketing campaigns (or to imitate the people who are really successful at marketing for those keyword phrases).

One More TIP: Also set up a Google Alerts for the name of your company. See where you are popping up on the web. I use this to keep track of mentions outside of what I do. It also pops up every time I put up a new article or blog post with my company name in it.

Several more tips:

Yahoo Answers is a great way to make a social marketing play. If like me, you're a service-based small business, you already know that your expertise is your No. 1 marketing tool. People intentionally go to Yahoo Answers looking for information. If you answer their questions utilizing your expertise in your product or service, these people are going to recognize you as an expert and a resource.

I often send them to my blog for more answers or information or to my articles page. (Of course, if you don’t have a blog or articles page, perhaps your newsletter or a page on your website with FAQs.


If you have no resources at all to help people, [or you just have a static ‘buy my stuff’ website] this probably won’t work for you.)

Make and Share “How-To” videos. People are really getting into videos these days. While I’m not real big on them because I don’t have the patience to watch most of them (they often tend to be just sales pitches), once in a great while someone puts together a really valuable and helpful video and I’ll sit through it and take notes.

Video cameras are cheap, the software to edit the videos is cheap too and placing short ones on YouTube will get you some traffic. You can also embed them in your website, your blog entries, or your newsletters. Or do an email marketing campaign and send people to your YouTube videos.

Share photos on Flickr. Have you seen how many photo groups there are on Flickr? There’s one for almost everything you can think of.

Remodel homes in Lake Calhoun Minneapolis? Create a Flickr file of remodeling projects you’ve done and post it in the Lake Calhoun Minneapolis group.

Lastly, I suggest you try StumbleUpon. While there are plenty of social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit,, etc., StumbleUpon is probably the easiest for a neophyte to start getting some traction.

Join groups related to your industry and add friends from those groups. Once you do that, as you add pages to StumbleUpon—including any content you are generating—other users will "stumble upon" what you've added. As those visitors give it the "thumbs up", your content is then shown to even more users.

This can happen pretty quickly and you don’t have to invest months on a promotional campaign like you would with or Digg. Again, however, if you don’t have any helpful content or articles on your website or don’t have a blog, this is all a moot point.

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Who’s your marketing competition? Las Vegas versus Disney World

I had an interesting conversation with the Vice President of a local web design firm this spring at a Twins game. I do some copy-writing and search engine optimization for their marketing and web design clients and they were kind enough to invite me to a company outing at the Metrodome (the Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3).

Anyway, he told me he went to Las Vegas with his girlfriend to attend his sister’s wedding. The ceremony only lasted 12 minutes so they had plenty of time to go to shows. And they only gambled $10.

Although he had a good time watching the various Broadway shows they saw, he was, overall, very disappointed with the whole experience. He said Vegas was noisy and dirty. And everything except the food was really expensive. And he said that for what he spent, he could have done a cruise and a land pass at Disney World. The last thing he said was that although he’s glad he went, he’d never go back to Vegas. Read more...

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