Social networking marketing is the new normal for small business marketing strategies. Why? It helps you engage customers and partners: past, present, and future.

If worked conscientiously, social media tools can put your business face forward, communicate with other business identities, and leverage these connections into new business.

Of course, you can and should get exposure at local networking meetings, and you may develop contacts and deals with members you meet there over the next several meetings. But, your online efforts can help you strengthen those face-to-face relationships and you can accomplish the more in shorter time online. However, you must use social media for more than a simple “meet-and-greet.”

So, let’s take this apart.

  • Establish a business identity presence on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and others (watch for the upcoming Google+). This presence is different from your posting gossip and chatter for friends and family network. Let your customers know where to find you and what they will find there, such as a place to discuss needs and experiences. If there is a place for concerns and complaints, solve them immediately and capitalize on your speedy response. Otherwise, keep it brief and informal.
  • Use the network to announce and inform. Let customers, partners, and prospects in on new products and directions. Solicit input and collaboration with a view to strengthening your customer, vendor, and supplier relationships.
  • Build on the networking. Ask for referrals and for new business based on what you have already shared about your business strengths. Seek alliances with other business principles that could combine forces to solve customers’ needs.

The “trick” is to work the social media site in such a way that the readers feel that they are part of a virtual process that gives and takes, talks and listens, advises and consents. Link prior contacts with new online contacts, and you can easily expand your ability to get introductions to key players in any industry.

There are an ever-increasing number of social sites available. Stick with the “Big 3” until you see one that better serves your needs. And, never get so involved that you neglect other business tasks. Get connected, first, and, then, we can look at how to work the system.