It seems at every turn we are hearing about the “latest and greatest” place to network and build market reach on the Internet. Regardless of the size of your business, there are likely things you could be doing to increase your market reach, but knowing which is the best for your particular needs can be a daunting task.

Although some online methods are incredibly powerful, effective and necessary, others can be a complete waste of time and fall into the category of yet “just another passing fad.”

Where did it start?
Something that has been around for a while, but as of late is getting much more “water cooler” attention is social networking. The term social networking was first coined by JA Barnes in 1954 to describe formations of various communities and organizations. In the early fifties the term had nothing to do with the Internet, but rather communities of people who would benefit from knowing one another.
The term is now most frequently connected to online communities of people who connect by way of places such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Ryze, StartUp.Biz, Twitter, and other such names.
It’s for more than young people
The early adopters of social networks as we know them today were college students and young people who grew up on technology. Many professionals still view social networks as communities that have nothing to do with them. The fact is, more every day small, mid-size and large corporations are finding value in utilizing the power and profit that comes from this powerhouse method of marketing.
Although corporations and smaller businesses haven’t embraced online business networks with nearly the same enthusiasm as teens and college students who have using social networks for years, more companies are steadily overcoming reservations and using them to build potentially powerful relationships and business tools.
Lower your cost of doing business
The fact is, when used correctly social networks can actually lower the cost of doing business. When you tap into the right social network for your goals and objectives you are able to more quickly reach your target market.
Other benefits include using social networks as a great tool for building credibility and trust with your current and potential clients and customers.
We are moving from a predominantly technology driven age to the age of recommendation. What this means is that more and more business is built based on referrals and recommendations.
Networking on steroids
Consider this. Each person you are able to connect with has a market reach of their own, often in the thousands, tens of thousands and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of people who likely have similar interests and needs. This is like networking on steroids; one person has the capability of introducing your products and services to thousands of people with the press of a button.
By the same token, they have the power to tell their network about things they don’t like about a company with the press of a button.
This is why now, more than ever, ethical business practices are so essential to a businesses ability to thrive.
Many large corporations are only just discovering that social networks are actually an excellent avenue to do targeted marketing and sales. The reason being is there are social networks for just about any interest group.
One of the greatest, yet most underutilized aspects of social networking is the ability to feed the postings that are done on one platform into another. For example, many smart marketers are using blogging as a part of their overall online position. When a new post is added to your blog, you can literally feed that post into other locations such as the social networks you belong to.
There are pitfalls
As powerful as social networks can be, it is easy to get carried away with all the excitement around them. What could be a very effective tool in your overall marketing can quickly turn into a technology nightmare and complete waste of time.
For micro and small companies it is recommended to limit the amount of time you spend posting on social networks. For larger companies consider having a department that handles this aspect of your marketing and public relations. Have measures in place in order to know if you are getting a good ROI from the time, money and effort used in this arena.
Don’t get left behind
The fact remains; millions of web users, both in the B2C and B2B arena are using social networks. Additionally, many journalists are using social networks to gather information for timely stories. If it’s good enough for them, don’t you think it at least warrants some investigation as to what the benefits to your company are?
Join myself and my colleagues, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman aka The Blog Squad for The Law of Action 2.0 mentoring course where you will learn how to effectively use Social Networks to increase market reach, visibility and revenues.