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Do I need a Facebook page?

Online social networking is important for business. It's a new form of relationship-building that can have great rewards, whether your audience is around the corner or around the world. And like all relationships, it takes work.

As a small business owner I know too well the feeling of not having enough time in the day to do all the things I should be doing to build my business, let alone achieve the ever-elusive ‘work-life balance’. For example, this blog entry started over two weeks ago as I sat next to my mother’s bed in the emgergency department at Henderson (now Juravinski) hospital on Hamilton Mountain. (She’s doing much better now, recuperating at my house before driving back home to Windsor.)

So for all the small business owners out there, as well as those organizations and businesses with limited human resources, here are some thoughts about having a Facebook page, or a presence in online social networking in general.

Chances are that your customers and business relations are already on Facebook. This is especially true for those of us who target a younger demographic, however more and more baby-boomers are getting Facebook accounts. (Perhaps at first the rational is to keep tabs on the kids, but then someone from highschool finds you, and so it begins…)

So if all these folks are already on, shouldn’t you be there too? Think of it as a giant party that many of your associates are attending – wouldn’t you want to go? More than likely the answer would be ‘yes’. Facebook then is like a giant on-line party.

Better yet, think of Facebook as a new way of networking. In his new book UNMarketing, Scott Stratten convincingly proves that the most effective marketing is done through building relationships (something we’ve all known to be true at one time or another) – and he’s proven the work of Internet social networking by using Twitter to market his new book. I’m reading it now and promise to get back to you with more tidbits.

My own business has a long history of ‘relationship marketing’, thanks in a large part to the efforts of Chris, who spends much of his time talking with clients – not just about their website, but about their health, their kids, their cars, or a great new restaurant. And that time has paid off with longtime clients who we consider friends, and much repeat business.

So Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are simply new ways to network – new ways for friends to recommend your product or service. Of course they can also criticise something about your business, so you need be prepared , and you need to be vigilant.

And that brings me to my last thought about social networking (for now). Just like any relationship, social networking takes time and committment. Just having a Facebook page and never posting anything on it is like going to a party and not talking with anyone. It is a different way of networking, however, so people who hate parties (see my analogy above) may not feel so intimidated doing online networking.

Are you already on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? If so, how is it going? We’ve decided to follow our own advice and created a comments area with our blog – so feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. And stay tuned for more posts on social networking.

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