In recent years online networking has burst onto the business scene, enabling companies and their employees to connect with hundreds of people without the hassle of having to even leave the office. Social networking sites can be a great way to make new contacts, as well as engaging with existing ones. If you’re new to online networking, it’s probably best to stick to the tried and tested sites at first, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Ecademy and Facebook, although there are a huge amount of other reputable sites out there, it’s just a case of researching what’s best suited to your business’ needs.
Online networking presents businesses with the opportunity to engage directly with customers in real-time. Social media consultants advise businesses not to use these sites merely as another sales platform, rather, they’re better used as tools to initiate conversations and share views, while all the time boosting their online presence and contact base. There’s no point joining social networking sites if you don’t dedicate time to maintaining an active online presence for your business - you’ll only get out what you put in. However, it’s also important to be in the right places, so find out what sites your customers are likely to use and focus your attention there.
Online networking can have a huge impact on your business’ reputation, as long as it’s used effectively. Make sure you respond to enquiries from potential customers and answer critics online. Social networking can add brand credibility and it allows companies to collate feeds and comments, thus interacting with customers on a more personal level.
Recruitment is another key area that can benefit from online networking. Through sites such as LinkedIn, business owners are able to view profiles for individual people and look at their previous work history and levels of experience. Recommendations from previous employers add a degree of trust that they are who they say they are, although as with all things internet-related, it can’t be totally relied upon without doing further checks.
While there are many online networks at your disposal, it’s a good idea to choose a few to participate on properly, rather than spreading yourself too thin across too many. Pick a few that you really keep on your radar, the ones that give you the best return on your time investment, and use them to keep abreast of your market, competitors and the wider business community.
There are some concerns surrounding the reliability of online networking as a reliable source of interaction. Many people and businesses remain sceptical about the value of internet networking and it is true that there are times when there is no substitute for face-to-face contact, however there are still many benefits to participating in online networking to maintain good connections and build business reputation.