Social Networking Risks and Rewards


Businesses, large and small, are starting Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts to promote their products and services. But before you decide to “take the plunge” you need to really consider whether the time and effort needed to do it well will deliver the results you want.

Social networking may not be the right fit for all businesses, and it certainly shouldn’t replace your existing marketing efforts.  It should just be one more cog in the wheel.

Small businesses can benefit from social networking because it’s a cheap way to advertise and build customer relationships. But larger companies may have strict compliance and regulatory standards to consider before promoting their brands on social networking sites. That’s why it’s important to use free monitoring tools – such as monitter.com for Twitter, oneriot.com or blogpulse.com – to keep tabs on what’s being said about your brand.

Then, there’s the customer service angle.  One reason a company may start a Twitter account is to quickly respond to negative comments about its products or services.  But companies shouldn’t rely on Twitter alone to fix their customer service issues.

That fact was brought out in a recent Miami Herald article about a web apps conference, in which one of the speakers, online marketer Tara Hunt criticized Rogers Communications, a Toronto based cable company. Hunt complained that she couldn’t reach a customer service rep by phone, but the company had six Twitter accounts to respond to her complaints.

“Instead of hiring people for Twitter, why not try hiring people to answer your freakin’ phones?” Hunt said.

Companies need to remember that social networking is one of many tools that can be used to promote your business. But it’s not necessarily going to help you make a sale when there’s a problem with your company.

After all, Toyota may have acquired 10,000 new Facebook fans since announcing its recall earlier this year, but its U.S. sales still dropped 9 percent in February.

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