What’s all the fuss about social networking in business? Is Twitter for Twits and Facebook just a fad? Or is it the biggest shift in the commercial world since the industrial revolution and the advent of the PC?

If you’d asked me nine months ago I’d have said; it’s a fad, it’s an incredible waste of time, particularly in business. In fact, as a word of warning, I’d still say it’s an incredible waste of time in business… without a strategy. However, the phenomena that is “social networking” simply can’t be ignored.

Consider these facts…(Ok, I should use the word “fact” with caution, as the statistics can vary slightly from report to report, however, they give an indisputable signal of where this technology is going and what it can deliver to practically any business, in any sector).

It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took TV 13 years, the internet 4 years and Ipod just 3 years to have 50 million users. Facebook added 100 million users in just 9 months! If Facebook were a country, it would be the 4th largest country in the world by population.

I have people say to me, “OK, but there are a lot of idiots on Facebook”. Agreed, but there a lot of idiots in the world too. These numbers speak for themselves.

I firmly believe that any successful businesses should run with not just one or two marketing elements, but a series of methods for reaching their target audience. This requires a well thought through strategy including identifying where your clients are, who they are, how they gather and process information etc.

Social media like Twitter and Facebook represent an incredibly effective means of reaching a clearly targeted audience and building relationships. Building good relationships is the key. With the advent of social networking your business success may rest not with what you say about your products or services, but what others have to say…

A recent survey showed that 25% of on-line search results for 20 of the worlds top brand names resulted in “user generated” content. i.e. blog posts or comments by consumers or potential consumers about those brands – not company adverts. The survey concluded that fewer that 15% of consumers trust adverts, whereas 78% trust consumer recommendations. Now you start to see how important it is to build relationships on-line and to listen to what people are discussing – their wants, needs and desires – and complaints.

Social networking and social media is not a fad – It’s a fundamental shift in the way we can communicate. The head of social media is the customer or consumer. This is a tidal wave and I’d suggest any business that wants to thrive should be swimming with the current not against it.

To help business owners get to grips with the fundamentals and to understand the scope of this incredible technology I have been engaged by Business Link to deliver a series of half day insights into social media for business across, Herts, Essex, Beds, Cams, Norfolk and Suffolk. For more information email Steve@eurekasales.co.uk or call 0845 053 4937