You can still do that, but nowadays social networks are becoming business tools and many organizations are already using them in that way. Intel, at the end of 2008, produced its social media guidelines and encouraged employees to use social media to get the corporate message out to as many people as possible.
So, if you’re not doing it already, what should you be doing? First of all there’s Twitter. Twitter was known only to a few people a year ago, but today it’s as well known as any other social media Web site. As you probably know, Twitter is a micro-blogging site allowing 140-digit messages to be sent. You have to publicize that you’re on Twitter so that people will “follow” you – ie read your tweets. You can tweet that you’re just enjoying a cup of coffee or whatever, but for business you probably want to tweet a news headline or an appointment date and time (like the next webinar or a conference). You then put a colon and a URL where people can read more details. It you have a series of tweets on the same topic, you can use hash tags (put a hash in front of a word that’s found in each tweet). And people can now re-tweet, which means they can pass on your tweet to their friends – extending the number of people who see your message. You can use a Twitter widget so your tweets appear in your Web page. That way people who browse your Web site can see the latest information you’re sharing. And you can use things like TweetDeck to see whether anyone else is tweeting about your company. You can find my tweets at twitter.com/t_eddolls.
One related thing with Twitter… it’s often a good idea to shorten URLs so they can be included with the text within the 140-character limit. Perhaps the two best-known sites for this are Bitly (bit.ly) and Tiny URL (www.tiny.cc). Example short URLs look like: http://bit.ly/6bVer5 or http://tiny.cc/MovBb. Other URL shortening organizations are available.
Facebook is also very useful for businesses. It’s easy to set up. I would recommend that you set up a new account so that anyone who becomes your friend doesn’t get access to pictures of you falling down drunk or whatever. Once you’ve set up a company name area on Facebook, anyone can become a fan. It also gives you the opportunity to post photos and meeting dates (in Events). You can also post information about your company and publish press releases, and use the “wall” to tie everything together. If you find people are putting negative comments, you will need to add positive ones so the bad ones disappear out of site further down the page. This can also be linked to Twitter. If you want to see a good example how it can be done, look for Marmite. I also include the Facebook widget on my home page as a second way of giving people up-to-date-information. You can become a fan of iTech-Ed here (http://www.facebook.com/pages/iTech-Ed-Ltd/201736748040?v=wall&ref=search).
In addition, you can have a presence on Linkedin (www.linkedin.com), Ecademy (www.ecademy.com), Fast Pitch (www.fastpitchnetworking.com), Plaxo (www.plaxo.com), Zoominfo (www.zoominfo.com), Naymz (www.naymz.com), and a host of other communities.
Get out there and blog. There are a few big blogging sites out there – Blogger (www.blogger.com), Typepad (www.typepad.com), and WordPress (wordpress.org) – and numerous others. Blogs can be used as ways of chatting about an event or a news item. It shows a friendly face for interacting with clients and potential clients. You should always Twitter a link to your blogs and put them on your corporate Facebook page.
You can also make all your news stories available through an RSS link. For example:
title="Subscribe to news about iTech-Ed" style=
"border:1px solid; border-color:#fc9 #630 #330 #f96; padding:0 3px; font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font:bold 12px; color:#fff; background:#f60; text-decoration:none; margin:4px;"<
This bit of code gives you a button without needing a graphic. You will need an XML file with it, and numerous examples can be found using Google.
You hope that your “fans” will be monitoring changes on your Web site, and you can do the same with rival organizations by using a feed aggregator. For example, Google Reader lets you subscribe to your favourite Web sites so new content comes to you when it's posted. Reader keeps track of which things you’ve read so that you only see unread items when you come back. If there’s a dark blue border around an item, Reader is marking that item as read.
Another thing to be thought about is shared content. If you have content (and by that I mean photos or videos) that could be shared with a wider audience, you can put it on sites like YouTube (www.youtube.com), Flickr (www.flickr.com), SlideShare, and others.
What about MySpace (www.myspace.com)? It gives you the opportunity to create a Web site and listen to music – but if you already have a Web site, I'm not sure what advantage the extra Web presence would give you.
Social bookmarking is very interesting. It's a mechanism that allows people to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of Web resources. Users save links to Web pages that they want to remember and/or share. Many social bookmarking services provide Web feeds for their lists of bookmarks, including lists organized by tags. This allows subscribers to become aware of new bookmarks as they are saved, shared, and tagged by other users. Examples of these include Delicious (delicious.com), Digg (digg.com), Reddit (www.reddit.com), and StumbleUpon (StumbleUpon), but there are lots of others, with new ones arriving all the time. It’s a good idea to put these on news pages or blog pages, but they can go anywhere. However, this can become a bit of a nightmare because there are so many. I made a start by copying the icons and then using the following code (it went on, but you get the idea):
This is not the best way to do it!
My advice would be to use a single button that links to multiple bookmarking sites, for example AddToAny (www.addtoany.com) or AddThis (www.addthis.com)
While making sure that staff adhere to guidelines, I would recommend any organization raises its profile and gets into social media – until the next big thing comes along.