Gauteng Business News

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ONLINE: Successful Business Networking Online Still in the Future


Recent Gauteng Business News

Networking Online is a norm in this digital age, when being wired in seems as normal as inhalation. Social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace cashed in on the computer-toting generation by creating online “social graphs” that allow youths to socialise in cyberspace. Now, with thousands of professionals flocking to these sites as well as to business applications like LinkedIn, many feel it’s becoming necessary to use social networking sites to stay fresh in a new age of business interaction.

The evidence to substantiate this notion, however, is slim. Though the number of professionals connecting online has surged, social-networking sites remain inadequate for successfully making new business contacts, says Louise Robinson, Sales Director of CG Consulting. “Social networking is primarily about being social. While there is some merit to using social networking sites for businesses that are trying to reach the average consumer, it is not a great tool for those businesses looking for business contacts.”

Can Business Networking Online Be Taken Seriously‘

While social networking wants to be taken seriously as a grown up marketing medium, it is difficult to achieve when the CEO knows that Facebook started as a social platform to connect with your classmates at college and is used by his daughter to share the weekend’s party photos. “The concepts of Facebook and a business component don’t really seem that complementary. It is a different space – one where only so much can be done in a business-to-business context,” Robinson says.

A case in point is any of the many Facebook pages set up by businesses when everyone was jumping on board to see what all the hype was about, and/or be part of the much-hyped “social networking revolution”. Yet, she points out, they didn’t know what to do with those pages in the longer term, and now the pages languish, unattended. Of course, the same applies to other social networks. “Even though platforms such as LinkedIn and Slideshare were started by their founders as corporate tools from day one, they have yet to provide concrete business achievements past allowing old colleagues, acquaintances, and business clients instant access to your contact info,” adds Robinson.

Problem Lies in the Data with Networking Online

The problem, she believes, lies in the data. “The data you get off these types of sites and the data you need to actually make sales are often two different things. Businesses are all aware that they need lists of potential buyers and all the concurrent data in order to make sales, but sifting through your social networking contacts for a sale is even less effective than a ‘spray and pray’ mailer.”

Robinson adds that the concept of the right data is confusing for most companies, but that essentially you need access to verified, accurate client data in order to make money off the information. “This is where an outsourced, outbound lead generation company can be invaluable. By taking the hassle out of sifting through all the data that is available, pinpointing the correct target market and establishing qualified leads, a company is guaranteed to get their message to the right audience. Relying on something like social networking to achieve similar goals will achieve fewer results with far more effort.”

She adds that businesses should be wary of merely ticking the social networking box without actually understanding to the realities of the medium, or its potential outcomes. “This may be the digital era, but successful business networking online remains a thing of the future. Comprehensive, verified data, used effectively as part of a campaign, still remains the best way to achieve results, with minimal time investment.”

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