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What are the benefits of social networks for small businesses?

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Before taking advantage of the many social network services available to your business, you should answer some basic questions:

• Do your customers or prospects participate in social media?
• Do you have time or staffing to seriously take care of this new communication channel?
• Are you prepared to communicate at the same level with people from different backgrounds?

To help identify your social media strategy, check out Rusty Weston’s web tips on Forbes.com about the risks and benefits social media brings to your company.

After you’ve determined a strategy, evaluate the worth of social media for your business. Justin Perkins has published an ROI Calculator for Social Network Campaigns, which is easy to use and provides a dollar amount to estimate the relative costs and benefits.

Once you have decided to utilize social networking, start a personal profile to learn what services you want to use and how to work with their tools. To help you out, search for tutorials related to the particular service in question. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the tool is the best for your plans. For example, Twitter has a lot of add-ons available to compliment the basic service. After playing the field for awhile, then it is time to actually open the profile for your company.

Social networking can certainly amplify your presence in the market place and generate some business, but is the value real or not? For example, Seth Godin in his YouTube vlog: Social networking – good for small business? discusses how making businesses contacts through social networking sites are valuable if they are real but can be a nuisance if they are not. So the best advice is to keep it real. After all, fake relationships are worthless.

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