Social Networking has value (and risk) for every business…

I’ve been working on a presentation recently about social networking and the application of it for all businesses. Many of my less web savvy business friends often see it as a toy for young people. What they often miss, and which I try to point out, is that Social Networking is a cultural phenomenon that has been occurring for as long as man (or woman) huddled around a campfire cooking meat and sharing learnings. The only thing that web-based Social Networking tools have done is accelerate the passing of the information and significantly broadened the reach. Think of it as the Telephone Game (I tell you something, you whisper to the person next to you, on and on until it no longer is the same something that you started with) on a global scale in hyper-fast time.

What does this have to do with businesses? ALL businesses depend on some social networking to grow their customer base – either word of mouth recommendations, public relations outreach, or referrals – to build their business. Web-based social networking platforms provide businesses with tools to accelerate these things and also broaden the reach.

Now this concept has been characterized and reported on by Gartner Group in a new study. It’s good reading for any business owner or manager. In addition, Forrester Research published a report about ‘Enterprise 2.0’ and highlighted the expected adoption of social networking tools by businesses by size:

Forrester Business 2.0 Graph

These trends can’t be ignored by traditional bricks and mortar companies. It isn’t about just protecting your reputation – it’s about accelerating the spreading of your reputation. If a business is good at what they do and proud of what they offer they should embrace the opportunity to have customers spread the good word. And be prepared to handle it when someone spreads bad news. Both can happen.

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