Growth from the Ground Up
Gregg is the president and CEO of Social Sciences Research Network, the leading multi-disciplinary online repository in social sciences and humanities, devoted to the rapid and electronic delivery of scholarly research at the lowest possible cost. He can be reached at [email protected].
Do you Tweet? Have you Friended anyone recently? Can you Digg It?
In case you haven’t heard, social networking is the newest global phenomenon, and it’s one of the best ways to ensure your company stays relevant in the evolving world of business. Social networking refers to the trend of online community involvement; specifically, interactive Web sites that provide information-sharing capabilities for viewers to stay connected on a real-time basis.
It’s an entirely new way to communicate. Millions of entrepreneurs are leveraging social-networking sites (like Twitter and Facebook) to gain an online foothold in their industry. When my company, Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN), started its first wave of social-media integration, I learned just how important technology can be to a business. In order to join the ranks of social-media experts and expand our online presence, we adopted a three-step approach:
Know your users
We have a loyal user base that shares a zest for research. They are extremely busy and are looking for the most efficient ways to stay current in their field. Before redesigning our Web site, we focused on current trends in the industry and looked at sites that our users visited on a regular basis. The goal was to find common features and functionalities. As a result, we offered the ability to share papers on popular sites, such as Digg and Del.icio.us, as well as a recommendation feature. By knowing exactly who we were trying to reach, we were able to better decide what fit our users’ needs.
Create the conversation
Many of our users are active online, and they often publish their own blogs or Web pages. Instead of sitting back as a passive observer, we jumped right in. We started out doing interviews and guest blogging. Today, we’re developing our own corporate blog so we can talk directly to our readers. It will be open, honest and extremely current. We realized that blogs shouldn’t be created to talk at someone, rather they should create an ongoing conversation.
Adapt to meet your needs
In our experience, social networking shouldn’t be approached as a “one-size-fits-all” option. Not everything will work for every company, so we focused on what worked best for our ultimate goal. At SSRN, we really liked the different approaches and audiences of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They have allowed us to have two-way conversations with our users and create granular communities. With employees spread across the country, these sites have helped us stay in constant communication— a perk that helps us remain relevant online.
Social networking isn’t going away any time soon. Instead of embracing everything all at once, we found what worked best for our business and customers and pursued those avenues. By taking advantage of these social-networking opportunities, we have been able to communicate with our clients on a platform unheard of five years ago. As a result, we have created a niche and established ourselves as a business in the know. Now that we’re networking online, there’s no limit to how far we can extend our services.