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Define Social Networks: Why Are They
Important to Small Business Owners?

What is Social Media?

Business owners need to be able to define social networks; and understand what is social media and how it is relevant to their business. Optimizing social media and online social networks needs to become a priority for all business owners. Why is it important? Because of the potential impact on your business through its reach, and through its effect on brand recognition and reputation.

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At the time of writing this page, social networks are growing rapidly in use and in importance. LinkedIn has over 100 million users in over 200 countries; Facebook has over 950 million users in over 180 countries; Twitter has over 175 million users monthly, world wide.

The potential for relationship marketing and relationship building by optimizing social media is enormous. And for small business owners the cost of participating in social media is relatively low; primarily time.

What is Social Media?

What is social media? The answer to that question - from a business perspective - is that it is a communication strategy of engagement.

Online social networks are growing in size, number and importance. It is important for small business owners to be able to define social networks and their potential impact on business.

Why is it important? Because optimizing social media is more achievable once you understand how to participate and create relationships on internet social networks.

Define Social Networks: Optimizing Social Media

Social networking sites allow users to set up their own profiles. There are two types of social networks:

  1. An internal social network where people are invited 'in' to the group (Facebook), or invited to link (LinkedIn) or follow (Twitter). Internal networks are usually a community of people with interests in common.

    As a small business owner, you might want to follow potential customers or link to suppliers (or customers) or build a group interested in, or passionate about, a specific topic.

  2. An external social network is 'open to the public' and is an online place where people go to visit, exchange and connect about an interest (such as sports, gardening, cooking, health networks, and more).

Online Social Networks

The power of social networks is that they are viral in nature; they can grow quickly (one person communicates with 5, who also communicate with 10 each, etc.). Online social networks first made their presence felt through personal communities, which have rapidly grown to business communities.

People are using internet social networks to connect globally and to get, and give, information and feedback on their experiences with products, services, companies, social experiences, and much more.

We used to talk about the best sales people as being those who could develop strong face-to-face relationships with their customers. That is changing; both in business to business selling and in business to consumer selling. Today, the best sales people also know how to build strong online relationships.

Define Social Networks and Internet Social Networks

Social networks allow you to develop strong relationships, and a sense of community, on various levels; one-to-one and one-to-many and many-to-many.

Internet social networks do not replace face-to-face relationships but they need to be built to add to the community of relationships you build.

You will never be able to build as many face-to-face relationships as you can online relationships; but the challenge will be to build your online network relationships to be as strong, as valuable and as authentic as your face-to-face ones.

Think of how you've built good personal and business relationships; it takes time, sharing of information, trust. Translate those activities and behaviors into your online relationship building.

It is important to recognize that social media marketing is not the only way to build a successful network and to grow your community. Make sure that you also invest time, energy and money into building a network of customers, employees, business mentors, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Make sure that you really understand and define social networks and how they can impact your business. Do not make the mistake of only trying to sell through the social networks channel. You will not get the full power of the network. You will be ignored, or even worse, you will receive negative and damaging feedback.

Focus on building your relationships first - with both offline and online social networks - and the business growth will follow.

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