by Terry Young
Can social sites help your business?
On the Internet, many sites can help promote your business for free, but it pays to choose wisely, as each method has different demographics, and all take time and commitment.
Blogs, short for Web Logs, are basically online diaries or columns. The person writing the blog can write about anything, such as where they ate breakfast today, or their knowledge of a certain subject. Blogs can be popular with Internet surfers, especially if they are updated regularly and have useful content.
Thanks to social bookmarking sites such as Digg.com, a good blog can become extremely popular when shared with other surfers. Blogs have become popular over the last few years because they gave people a medium to give opinions or share their expertise. Blogs are perfect for businesses who want to share their professional information, but have limited free time. When you find time, you can write several blogs and set them to publish at later dates.
A spin-off of blogs is the very popular site, Twitter. Twitter is a live, interactive blog where you can 'follow' anyone whose writing appeals to you.
Twitter also has live messaging to mobile phones and email, so you don't need to be tied to Twitter all day waiting for people to say something. You can go about your business, and if someone has something to say, you will be emailed, or text messaged.
If you are in a fast changing, entertaining business, such as a restaurant that has regular offers, or a Hollywood news agency, the ever-updating nature of Twitter could be a useful tool.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have been touted to help businesses. While both of these have similar concepts to communicate with many friends, both have quite different membership demographics.
Launched in 2003, MySpace has been referred to as the first popular social site, although there had been some close attempts before, such as Friendster.com. MySpace, being new at the time, was originally popular with a wide age and income demographic. But, because of the ability to personalize the colors and the styles of the page, and even play music, it is now very popular with rock bands and teens. Therefore, if you sell a product that appeals to music loving, skateboarding teens, MySpace would be a more effective medium than Facebook.
Launched in 2004, Facebook was only for Harvard University students. Over the next few years that membership was extended to other colleges and universities, and membership was finally opened up to the rest of the world in September 2006.
Because of those beginnings, plus the overall simplicity and structure of the pages, Facebook has become popular with college students, and older, well educated, business people.
If your business is regarded highly by this demographic, such as exercise, education, travel or home and garden, this would be a good place to set up your promotional page.
Whichever route you take, you need to know that all can be time consuming, especially the ones that are immediate. Just as you can look committed and responsive if you reply quickly to comments on your page, only visiting your Facebook or 'Tweeting' once a week will have the reverse effect.
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Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design. Since 1997,