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Social media adds business value by building networks that enhance competitive advantage, enable the exchange of information and foster strong relationships. There are various Internet communication tools that enable us to network both personally and professionally such as Facebook, e-mails, chat and RSS.
Have you ever heard the term Web 2.0? Have you wondered what was meant by that? Web 2.0 is a term used to describe advanced Internet technologies and applications that enable collaboration and information sharing. Some of the popular Web 2.0 technologies are blogs, social networks and RSS.
A major phenomenon of Web 2.0 technologies is the rise of social media. Social media is the online platforms and technologies that people use to build social networks by communicating with others and sharing experiences, opinions, insights and perceptions. Social media not only includes text, but also images, audio and video. Social media is unique because people, just like you and me, control the use of these tools. It is inexpensive, easy and convenient.
Developing social networks through the use of social media adds value to businesses. Social capital can be measured by the number of relationships, the strength of the relationships and the resources controlled by those relationships. In the past, organizations relied on sales people, customer support and public relations to build their social capital. Today, organizations use technology such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to build social capital. Individuals use technology such as Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, newsgroups and chat to communicate, voice opinions and share ideas.
Natalie is an up and coming photographer. While her talent and skill behind the camera are impressive, she is in a highly competitive industry. As a new photographer, Natalie needs to spread the word about her business, build relationships with people and organizations and strengthen her presence in the community. Natalie can use social networking to gain a competitive advantage, exchange information, advertise, showcase her work and foster strong relationships.
Natalie has decided to use social networking to build her brand, support e-commerce activities and assist with advertising and sales. She decides to create a Facebook page for her business. Facebook is a social networking site that connects users to friends, family, co-workers, groups and businesses. Users create profiles and develop a network in which they can exchange information, share thoughts, photos, news stories and much more. Natalie can use Facebook to stay in touch with customers and provide the latest on her services and promotions. It is a great way to reach customers, alert them of special offers and keep the organization in the forefront of a consumer's mind. She can also post pictures of her work to highlight her talent and skill.
Did you know that Facebook has over 850 million active users, 250 million photos uploaded daily, 2.7 billion 'likes' per day and 425 million mobile users? That will provide Natalie with access to many people!
Natalie can use e-mail to communicate with clients concerning photography sessions, pricing and proofs. E-mail is an extremely popular method of electronic communication. E-mail allows for person-to-person messaging and document sharing. It expedites communication and enables messages to be sent to multiple people quickly through the use of Internet technologies. Natalie could attach proofs of the pictures she has taken for customers to review. She could send contracts for weddings or simply answer questions a customer may have.
How many e-mails do you send per day? Approximately, 294 billion messages are sent daily by users. That equates to 2.8 e-mails sent every second!
Another way for Natalie to conveniently connect with clients is using chat or instant messaging. Chat allows for real-time interactive conversations over the Internet. Chat allows groups of people to communicate. Everyone can see the messages posted by others in the group. Some popular chats are AOL and Delphi Forums. Chat has become increasingly popular in business with over 80% of U.S. employees utilizing chat. Instant Messaging (IM) is a type of chat service that allows participants to create private channels. The instant messaging system will alert users when a person from his or her list is online. A chat session can then be initiated. Some common instant messaging tools include Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger. Natalie could add a chat feature to her company Website where customers could ask questions and acquire information.
Since Natalie is new to the photography industry, she decides to visit a portrait photography newsgroup. Newsgroups are discussion groups on electronic bulletin boards. People share information and ideas on a specific topic. Anyone can post messages to newsgroups. Thousands of newsgroups exist on practically any topic imaginable. Natalie feels that she can gain valuable ideas and insights as well as share her own with others passionate about photography.
Natalie really enjoys photography. She has a lot to say about the subject, including information others may find valuable. She decides to create a blog, or a chronological publication of personal thoughts and links. It is somewhat like a journal. Natalie would post regularly to her blog and develop an audience that follows her frequent publications. She can easily advertise her photography business and link her company website for a wider reach. Blogs can be on practically any topic and are created by professionals, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and corporations.
Did you know that over 150 million blogs exist online, approximately 120,000 new blogs are added every day and there are more than 1.5 million comments posted in blogs every day?
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As a business owner, Natalie realizes that Twitter has a lot to offer as well. Twitter is a social networking site in which users can post short, text-based messages. Tweets, or the text-based posts, are limited to 140 characters. Twitter will connect Natalie in real-time to the latest stories, opinions and ideas. She can use Twitter to share information about her services, seasonal promotions, special pricing and as well as gather feedback and build relationships. An example of a Tweet Natalie could make is: 'School is in session! Back to school photo packages are 15% off through October 31st!'
Did you know that Twitter has over 100 million active users, 200 million tweets daily and 1 million new accounts are added daily?
LinkedIn is a social media site used to network professionally. LinkedIn connects people to colleagues, friends and professionals. LinkedIn enables users to share knowledge, ideas and opportunities. It can assist a user with employment opportunities, obtaining new clients or building a professional reputation. Natalie created a LinkedIn profile so she could begin connecting with others. She can share her education and experience as well as spread the word about her new business.
Did you know that LinkedIn has over 175 million members worldwide? This is a terrific way for Natalie to build a network for referrals and photography jobs.
Natalie is very busy with her business and social networking. She really enjoys reading the latest news, keeping track of the weather, reading the blogs of other photographers and keeping up with the latest in photography. It's very time consuming to visit many different websites to find all of the latest headlines that interest her. Natalie relies on RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. RSS compiles the latest headlines from various websites and pushes those articles to her computer. It's a very simple way for Natalie to manage the news, weather and blogs that she finds interesting. Natalie will simply subscribe to a source of information, also called a feed, that delivers headlines and summaries of information she wants.
Whether it is business or pleasure, there is no doubt social networking plays an integral role in our lives. How often are you updating your Facebook status, checking your e-mail or making a tweet throughout the day? Probably more than you realize.
As our story about Natalie has shown, businesses can use the Internet, websites, social networking, blogs and other Web 2.0 technologies to connect with customers, enhance relationships, increase productivity and lower costs. Utilizing these technologies will create a competitive advantage that is imperative in the business world.
To review, Web 2.0 is a term used to describe advanced Internet technologies and applications that enable collaboration and information sharing. Social media is the online platforms and technologies that people use to build social networks by communicating with others and sharing experiences, opinions, insights and perceptions. Popular social networking sites include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Many other online communication tools can be utilized by business owners such as e-mail, blogs, newsgroups, chat and RSS.
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