Social networks – but why?

I was in discussion with a friend recently about using Twitter. They were keen to start tweeting but as a one-person business posed the question why do people use the social networking site. It started me thinking about why I use it and the possible reasons others turn to social networks, and I have grouped them into five categories. Hopefully, the outline in this blog will help those small businesses and individuals who are interested in using social media but are not sure why to do it.

1. Social users
Many people start using social media to meet up with friends and share details of what they are doing. This is seen with most of the Facebook use. Twitter does present a way to quickly expand your network of friends by identifying those with similar interests or who are already connected to your friends. The use of social networks for this group is for entertainment and fun rather than with any set aim or business objective in mind.

2. Promotional use
Companies and organisations often decide to use social media as an extension of public relations and advertising activity. The aim being to continue to promote the brand and the product with those using social networking sites. Often there may be little attempt to engage in conversations but a lot of messages about the product or service will be pushed to potential customers.

3. Build business
As an extension of the use of social networks for pure promotion purposes some companies have identified the opportunities to grow and build the business through social networks. They aim to do more than just push a product or service, and try to engage with people to encourage them to get involved. Expanding the network for the business is done through talking to new customers.

4. Maintain business
But as well as talking to new customers you need to keep conversing with current ones, and that is where social networks can maintain business. In the tough economic times we currently face keeping in touch with loyal customers is essential. There is nothing more frustrating than when the best deals are saved for new customers only, and the same is true on social media. If you go in search of new business at the expenses of existing customers you risk damaging your company.

5. Finding ‘experts’
Finally, there are many, like me, who use social networks to connect with experts to share ideas, information and advice. Social networks allow me to make contact with people working in similar roles across the UK and abroad. I can understand their viewpoint and approach through direct conversations. And it doesn’t matter what subject I may want some information about, there is always someone available to give some advice. In short, it provides me with a large network that can provide support as well as help to expand my knowledge.

So, for my friend considering whether to make a move into using social media the real question to answer is what category do you fall into? What is the driver behind you wanting to join social networks? Social networks have a lot to give if you know why and how you are using them.

This is my last blog before Christmas so a very merry Christmas to everyone who has read or commented on my blogs during the year.

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