Confuse Business Networking and Social Networking at Your Peril

I started researching business networking & social networking websites to find out how many there are and what they offer. Most of us have heard of Facebook and MySpace when it comes to the social side and to a lesser extent, Twitter of course, and LinkedIn is starting to emerge as the benchmark for online business networking.

I tried hard to find a list of social networking sites so that could see the playing field but still found it difficult to understand exactly what each site is good for. As I started to think about it there’s also the other angle that you need to decide what you are trying to achieve.

For example, many businesses use social networking as a method to promote their online businesses and some would say in a subversive manner, other more traditional businesses are actually looking to be part of a wider group of peers where ideas can be discussed.

This latter idea is true online business networking and the core platform offering from many business networking websites is to allow you to build up a network of contacts, to interact with other members to share ideas and pass referrals. Some of the more sophisticated also offer the opportunity to “meet” with investors so the site actually becomes and means to financing your business venture.

If you’ve had a dabble on Facebook purely for the interest then you’ll know how easy it is to get really carried away and lose a lot of time. This is my word of warning about any online networking – it can take over your life! Always come back to what is true to your business objectives, don’t get sucked into fun discussions, remember that business is business and those that remember this are the ones that succeed.

Having said that, you can’t ignore social networking altogether. For many it’s just a bit of fun but for others it’s a serious way to promote their online businesses. Whether it’s on line or face to face, one thing remains true about networking and that is that it all works through the power of word of mouth.

How many times have you received a joke via e-mail or text message? And if it’s a good one, what do you do? If you’re like me you pass it on to your friends. Now imagine doing the same if it were a link to your business website, traffic to your site would grow exponentially in a short space of time. This is the principle that many on line businesses use so next time you get a recommendation for a website through any social media, think about where it has come from and what’s the motivation behind it.

To summarise, online business networking and social networking appear to fulfil similar needs but from a business perspective they could be further apart with business networking meeting the needs of a traditional network for business whereas social networking is used to promote business in a more subtle manner.

Paul Yates offers Business Networking Tips and information about social media marketing together with a list of social networking sites.