• Social Networking sites

    These started to boom from 2005 with the likes of MySpace. They are still evolving today in 2012 and will still be around in an exciting new form in 2020.

    Myspace was used predominantly by the music and creative industry initially, but the potential has now been realised by business users too to help promote their products and services - sometimes to the dislike of the site’s normal users. Businesses need to tread carefully on Social Sites!

    Facebook is now the leading social networking website in the world, and it lets people add their own profile, events comments and groups. Targeted marketing opportunities are also available through their advertising system.

    Twitter has also grown in popularity over the last few years - a simple system that allows users to send and read mini snippets of text information online, knows as ‘Tweets’. Users can ‘follow’ other users. Hash tags (#) are unique words that can be used to search for and identify topics and classes of ‘tweet’.

    The main business or career based online network is on the site called ‘Linked in’. This enables individuals to put up their own professional profile and network in the business sense, sharing information, expertise, promoting both their business and themselves.

    Business individuals should perhaps look seriously at creating profiles or groups on these sort of sites. Don’t abuse the access to others or you are likely to lose your digital friends!

    It is on these sites that viral marketing campaigns can propagate and the ‘latest buzz’ can pass from person to person on any scale.

    Youtube and the Social Media websites

    Audio, video, animation and creative interactive media has grown considerably since the Internet has matured and bandwidths have grown to accommodate the volumes of data transfer.

    Youtube is currently ranked as the 3rd most popular website in the world in 2012, up from 7th in 2010. In terms of website raw data volume, it is the first!

    Stumble, digg and del.icio.us - Social Bookmarking sites

    Social bookmarking sites evolve by real people recommending websites to others in their community. They are another vehicle for helping propagate a natural buzz about a site. They are also good at helping promote original and innovative websites.

    Getting on with the online communities

    When using Social Media sites (and blogs) you must be vary careful to be transparent and open about what it is you are doing there.

    Communities often do not like the business world coming into their personal spaces and blogs and having their say. Tread very carefully on their turf, be honest and open and all should be fine!

    Keep a record and an eye on any sites you have posted on, you may need to respond to comments of sorts, update and edit content or even defend yourself in some cases. There are even online reputation tools for those businesses that need to make sure they keep an eye on what people are saying about them online, though this is a little bit involved for small businesses to bother with.