Many businesses have recently become aware of the need for an online presence to attract new and Web-savvy customers.
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This is particularly important for businesses that target Generation X and Y, an increasingly influential segment of the market.
Sites such as MySpace and Facebook can be potentially advantageous marketing tools for a local business. MySpace, for example, is a place where a small business -- such as a restaurant or bar -- can create their own profile page.
A few reasons that attest to the benefits of social networking include:
1. It's Free!
On MySpace, you only need a valid e-mail address to become a member and create a profile page. While most traditional advertising and marketing efforts require some sort of funding, an average social networking site requires no annual fees or start-up costs.
2. Simple Set-up
A profile can be created with very little time and effort. For the less Web-savvy individual, most sites provide straightforward instructions and a general template to make page-construction simple.
3. Easy Customization
With online instruction, it is easy to customize a profile page to fit the image of your business. Many sites are dedicated to providing an endless variety of backgrounds and clip art for social networking sites. Such options are accompanied with a code already incorporated into the editing section of the profile page. No extra work is needed on your part.
4. Maintenance is Flexible
After the profile is created, you decide how often you update the content. It doesn't demand constant attention; it only requires as much as you are willing to put into it. Many enthusiastic social networkers enjoy constantly updating the look or information posted on their site. This helps to maintain interest in new information about your business.
5. Conveys Information about the Business
Many sites allow you to post bulletins or blogs for friends (people who have requested to connect with you on your site). This gives businesses a chance to advertise weekly specials, sales, or new products/services. For many, the Web is one of the first places they visit to search for information. Having an online presence helps ensure your business will be one of the first they come across in a search.
6. Buzz Generation
When someone adds a business profile as a "friend," the profile appears in that person's friends list. This means other people will see, and perhaps visit, the profile; thus increasing awareness about the business.
7. Allows for Customer Feedback
Social networking sites serve as an outlet for where a company can really explore possibilities of reaching out to the customer and ask for feedback. Entertainment venues or restaurants may ask connected customers to post pictures and comments about their experiences.