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If you want to try a social networking -- now is definitely the time to give it a go...

Surprisingly, the opportunities in social networking are underutilised by businesses at the moment and so there is a real gap for smart entrepreneurs to get in there before the competition does!  Many business owners are afraid to try it because they anticipate doing something wrong.  It is a new concept and can be confusing if you are not yet into social networking, yet it does offer a tremendous opportunity to market your business and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Traditional businesses can find it hard to get into the modern methods of Internet marketing, but you will be surprised at how quickly you will adapt once you go with the flow and at least give it a try.

Some people feel that whatever they do in any social networking situation, they will be on show and all their mistakes evident to everybody in the community -- but actually people are very understanding and if you are genuine and honest about your intentions, you won't go far wrong.  There are plenty of entrepreneurs with experience of this form of marketing that would be willing to show you the ropes, so don't be afraid to ask.

Will it work?

Some people are not trying social networking because they believe it won’t be effective -- why waste your time on something that doesn't work!  However, many people are having success with social networking and it is definitely worth trying -- how do you know it will work for your particular business if you don't at least try!

Social networking sites can reach thousands of potential customers and the opportunities to market your business are expanding all the time.  Just look at the success of sites like Facebook and Twitter -- you can't deny the popularity of these methods of communicating and they are not about to go away any time soon...

If you want to stay in the game and make a success of your business, it's well worth considering social networking -- even if it's only to build brand recognition and increase exposure for your business.  Nobody even knows you have a website unless you let them know about it and social networking can be very effective at promoting your business and your brand.

Take it one step at a time

Understandably, many entrepreneurs find the whole social networking ’thing’ a bit overwhelming and don't know where to start with it all.  The trick is to take it one step at a time.  Try one thing and master that before you go onto the next -- that way you will build up your social networking skills gradually.

Try finding relevant social networking sites -- places where people are focused on your area of interest.  For instance, if you are passionate about cats and run a business selling books about cat's and accessories for cats, you will find plenty of information portals, web sites, organisations and chat forums about cats.  All you have to do is start getting involved.  Post something on a forum and start talking to other people who are interested in cats.  Gradually, you can mention your products and before you know it you are getting into social networking.

Then try adding a blog to your website and talk to people about cats -- mention your blog every time you market your business and direct your subscribers to your blog.  Get people to contribute their comments and suggestions.

Another thing you can do is to add a profile on, a forum for entrepreneurs to stay informed, exchange information, ideas and opportunities.  What can you lose -- it's worth taking a look!

Where to go?

If you are going to try social networking, it's important to consider who your target audience is likely to be -- by being in the right place you will obviously maximise the effectiveness of any social networking you undertake.

Ideally, you should seek out the most relevant (and therefore time effective) places on the Internet for your networking activities.  Like the cat example above, try to find sites that cater to your particular area of interest.  However, it is also worth interacting with large groups of people who are socialising online.

The obvious places to start are either on Facebook or Twitter.  You can try both, but I would suggest concentrating on one or the other -- at least to begin with.  Facebook tends to attract younger people -- generally people who are already friends as a means of keeping in touch.  Twitter, tends to be used more by 35 to 45-year-olds for social networking and meeting people with similar interests.

Listen to your customers

Finally, social networking is a brilliant way to find out what people think of your business and to discover the sort of problems people are experiencing -- the best way to create a bestselling product is to find a solution to a common problem.  Social networking will give you plenty of opportunities to interact with people and keep your finger on the pulse.

Because social networking is so underutilised at the moment -- you really should get in there and give it a go right now.  As more and more businesses find out how valuable it can be, your impact as an individual will become more and more diluted.

So seize the opportunity and go for it!  You never know how social networking could benefit your business until you seriously give it a go -- and the best thing is it doesn't cost a penny!