Tweet me! Link me. Come into my space.

Does this sound inviting? It is “Social Networking”, something that is considered in today’s world a solid component for any marketing strategy.

Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. LinkedIn. They’re the online Web tools that form the framework of social networking. In the “old” days, networking required the business owner to attend gatherings such as charity auctions, professional development seminars or cocktail parties to build and maintain relationships with prospective clients.

While there’s no way to replace that kind of face-to-face interaction, the advent of the Internet – and online social networking in particular – has provided additional tools for the arsenal of the marketing professional.

How does online social networking work?

Take Facebook, for example. A business can open a Facebook account, just as an individual can. Set up the account and invite clients, prospective clients, vendors and business partners to “befriend” your business. Once your Facebook page is up and running, you can post videos and images of your new products and your friends will instantly be notified. You can also use your Facebook “status” to inform users of upcoming events, like your next trade show exhibit.

It’s a means of providing regular, ongoing contact with your clients in a format they’re comfortable with. It also broadens your outreach potential – you’ll be able to make contact with some prospective clients who are located much too far away for face-to-face contact.

Some tips for using Facebook for business marketing:

  • If you already have a personal account, keep it separate from your professional account. Your clients probably don’t want to see your friends’ comments about what you ate at the party last night.
  • Use your account to post links to stories related to your core competency. If you provide tax preparation services, post occasional links to outside articles that provide tax tips.
  • Interact. Post comments on your clients’ pages. If a client reaches a milestone or wins an award, congratulate them publicly. The more you comment, the more your name will be on the screen.
  • Join a “group.” There are several professional organizations with pages on Facebook. Joining one of these groups can give you access to other professionals around the world.
  • Upload multimedia regularly. Images, videos, notes and audio recordings are all great tools to show friends what is happening at your business.

Businesses are just beginning to harness the power of online social networking sites like Facebook. If you haven’t already, it might be time to explore the type of networking the 21st century has to offer.