Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

HOW SOCIAL IS YOUR NETWORK?

There are few topics that experts want to write about more than the use of social networking. Reader interest is high too, although I don't think it nearly matches the enthusiasm with which essays and articles are being dashed off. Viva la hype!

And a good deal of confusion abounds, as come through with an AccountMate VAR who this weekend came through with a "Can you tell me how to use this #@!" But between the hype and confusion lies the fact that social media is getting more important every day. Surveys that have been taken also reveal that a major obstacle to user adoption is widespread corporate policies banning their use at work. This will prove as effective as IT's attempt to control the spread of the IBM PC in the 1980s.

It's that how to use them that remains a bit tricky for many. Friends tell me that they get a lot of business from Twitter, although as a journalist my use is different. Most editors are using Twitter as flash headline to drive readers to articles on Web pages. But it's not hard to imagine flashing tweets about new products and services. There's a lot of articles on the Web to suggest ways.

Yet, the ultimate answer lies in something that a lot of small businesses are not good at--effective marketing. These are new marketing communication. And like more traditional forms, they need to be used in a way to reach a market that is interest in the product being promoted. The business must also be able to measure results, or it's just a hobby.

Without attempting to give an answer that gets into any particular business, I think that business must experiment. Yes, that's what happens with new things. You have to try them before rejecting them. This still requires study. Who uses the different services and how does this mesh with a company's target customer? What do prospects want? What are their needs?

Does a business want quantifiable results? There are those like me who see Facebook as a relationship-building tool that is critically important, but whose results can't be shoveled into neat piles. I tend to use Linkedin as a fact checker, something very important in my business. Other readers may be more interested in searching for individuals with specific skills.

Another very traditional issue involves deciding whose job it is to post, read and maintain these sites. Business owners who are not adept at this kind communication are well advised to delegate this duty to those who are better at it. But that's not different from any other task faced by firms that are large enough to have people to delegate things to.

What's posted and by who should be a decision that adheres to policies and plans, not something that a company falls into and suddenly the social media page turns into meeting place for people that the owners might not want to be associated with.

New media let business do new things or do old things more effectively. But they don't do away with the need for planning and execution. And if a business person is in doubt about these networks, just be very old-fashione: Find something to measure and measure it.

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