With the explosion of online social networks during the past couple of years, it was only a matter of time before businesses got in on the action. More and more small businesses today are bypassing conventional methods of advertising and setting up their profiles on social networking sites like Myspace and LinkedIn.

Social networking websites are especially attractive to businesses because these forums provide free advertising that has the potential of reaching an audience of millions. Local concert halls, restaurants, coffee houses, radio stations, publications, retailers, and car dealerships are just a handful of the types of companies that are taking advantage of the vast access to the younger demographic that these sites provide.

An exact membership total is not possible because the number grows by the second, but approximately 40 million members worldwide call MySpace home. In fact, MySpace is so popular that it receives more traffic than Google. LinkedIn, while currently less popular, is growing quickly with a membership of approximately 10 million. Facebook and Flixster are also part of the phenomenon, along with dozens of others.

LinkedIn is a network that connects businesses and professionals by industry, functions, geography, and areas of interest. Since it is more conservative than the often-controversial MySpace, many professionals and business owners find it more beneficial to join LinkedIn. Plus, its sole purpose is to connect businesses for the purpose of advancement, so it’s basically a no-brainer.

Other business-oriented social networking sites that are growing in popularity include Ryze, Orkut, Ecademy, and NetParty. Although different from one another, what these networks have in common is that they all act as a customer relationship management tool for companies selling products and services. Companies can also use social networks for advertising in the form of banners and text ads.

Another very effective way for businesses to take advantage of Web 2.0 is by setting up a company blog. This presents a very user-friendly way for potential customers to find information about your service offerings. The idea is to post articles or short entries that provide useful information to visitors on your area(s) of expertise. For instance, if you own a home inspection business, you might want to blog about valuable do-it-yourself tips for homeowners. Blog-frequenters become just that because they appreciate the fact that they can leave feedback on blog entries. This interactive exchange of information is quickly becoming the norm amongst most of the top companies on the Web.

With customer satisfaction rates at an all-time low, blogs and social networking sites present an opportunity for a prospective customer or prospective member to easily facilitate a real, human-level connection with individuals within an organization. This enables genuine business relationships to form and puts an authentic human face on the interaction, changing the external perception of an organization from a sterile, faceless behemoth into a collection of individuals who are ready to help.

While online social networks may be somewhat new to the business, the so-called MySpace generation has grown up with them. That means that by the time these individuals enter the workforce, online social networking will be a major part of everyday business, and the organizations that have determined how to best integrate them into their operations will be the ones that are most successful.

For more ways to improve your customer acquisition process, call us at 1-800-978-3417 or Contact Active Web Group and let us help you!

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