The inspiration for this post came from the following video with Seth Godin.
Though I do agree with what was said, I also want to point out a few other benefits of Social Networking for business.
1) Brand tracking using services like Tweet Tabs, Trendrr, and Facebook search which is now Real-Time. This is very important, even potentially more so than site traffic. What are people saying about your business in Social Networks? As a business owner you should be jumping into these conversations as they are happening online, offering answers and suggestions, while also respecting the open nature of Social Networking. You can shadow Best Buys model here, they do a great job.
2) Social Networking (and Social Media), when done correctly, can really enforce a solid SEO program. For instance, Tweets are now indexed by Google, Bing, and Yahoo (though Yahoo search is now powered by Microsoft). The strategy I use here is to try and include keywords related to my business in some of the Tweets I send out, while not making it obvious. Also, if you didn’t know this, the username you select for your Twitter profile is also used as the Title Tag keyword, so choose wisely. You should also try and use the same username (preferably your brand or company name) for all of your Social profiles. Making this process easier is a website called Knowem, which allows you to see which Social Networks have your desired username available. You can also use their username registration service to save time.
To test if your Social Networking and Social Media usage is affecting SEO, try setting up Google Alerts for the keyword (your brand name hopefully) that is being used as your profile username. I routinely find my Tweets in Google Alerts.
3) Turning site visitors into community members is also an important thing to keep in mind. In this area I really like the embeddable Fan Box by Facebook. Example below. Just be careful what words you use for the title of your page, because you can’t change them and they are used for the URL, important for SEO. Once you reach 25 fans, you can select a Vanity URL though the title remains the same.
Some will call Social Networking frivolous, this is mainly based on their lack of experience and a non-existent strategy for their business. It definitely can be if you let it be that way. It is up to you who you connect with on Social Networks. Don’t feel like it is your duty to accept friend requests or follow everyone back who follows you on Twitter. Become your own Social filter and find the people/brands who you really want to connect with. Don’t let the Social Networking “scoreboard” get in the way of quality conversation and community engagement.
At the end of the day Social Networking should be fun and rewarding, so take steps to ensure this happens early on in your strategy.