Online social networking is widely defined as people having conversations through a range of digital communication tools such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and others. Facebook, for example, has become the rage in Kenyan secondary schools and colleges. It is estimated that 417 million people use a social networking site globally. The reach of social network sites is therefore undisputable and businesses (especially small firms) need to wake up to their potential.
Googling for the best deal is a common practice among online shoppers. Maximizing visibility in these search engines is the best way a business can stay ahead of the competition. A local online business needs to get noticed by the increasingly growing number of online Kenyan shoppers. By using social networks it can build an online reputation that can ensure prosperity in the digital marketplace.
A small business can build an online reputation by using social business networking tools like blogs, wikis, bookmarks and discussions boards in these social network sites. These tools would enhance the relationship between a business and its customers by, for example, offering dedicated customer support. Customers can seek clarifications, report problems and suggest solutions through a blog located in Facebook. This online interaction is distinctly lacking in Kenya because businesses use their sites as static adverts that don’t offer any facility for interaction with customers. However some are catching up and a good example is Mama Mikes blog (http://www.mamamikes.com/blog/?cat=10).
Another way social networking can be used by businesses is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Getting noticed is the first fundamental step in been able to compete online. Customers use search engines to identify companies and websites that offer the services/products they are looking for. The high traffic of social networks ensures content is constantly refreshed and links to other sites are built. This activity subsequently improves the search engine ranking. This ranking is simply the order in which sites are listed after a search. A high ranking is achieved by a good SEO which can be driven by the high number of in-bound links found in social business networks.
There are many more ways of harnessing the power of social networking sites for your business which we cannot exhaustively list. However my attempt at getting examples of Kenyan companies who have a presence on Facebook was difficult. If you know of any local firm in Facebook please send me its web address so that we can examine the potential and risks of local firms using social network sites, with examples, next week.