Talking this past week about my new insights about social networking led me to the conclusion that I need to address social networking pros and cons for business. The buzz has always been on the pros, and because of my strong belief in social networking the bias will will always be there. However, for a moment let’s examine this in a neutral light using that favorite of President Lincoln. Listing the pros and cons of an item. That way, people understand both sides of the coin. Got it! Like a penny, which has a picture of Lincoln.

scale of justice, pro and con

Weighing The Pros And Cons Of Social Networking

Pros:

1. Build your brand: One of the greatest things about using social networking is that everyone now has the ability to build a brand for their business. There is no need for expensive TV commercials costing millions, so school children remember to say, “Just Do It” or “Time to Make The Donuts”. Instead, you can create a pinpoint campaign to reach your target market and generate tremendous buzz about your product, so when the time is right customers will use your services.

2. Track your brand and other brands as well: Additionally, using social networking and online tools you can track virtually anything about your target market and what they do online. Want to know how many people clicked on your blog link last month. Make the link on Twitter and Facebook a goo.gl or su.pr link and you can check how many people click on your blog all the time. Need to know what people are saying across the internet about you: set up Google Alerts. Tracking your brand is that easy.

3. Make valuable business  connections: One of the best known reasons to use social networking for business is to gain access to amazing business connections that generally would take years to make or might not even happen at all. Meet people around the world ready to buy your services. It is possible, as long as you keep connecting with people through social networking.

4. Spread the word on your product:Want your product or service to go viral? One of the most effective ways to do it is get your information shared, digged, retweeted, stumbled, and a whole bevy of other sharing tools on different social networks. There is no guarantee anything will go viral. At the same time not getting the word out on social networking will almost certainly defeat any dreams you have of your business going viral.

5. More effectively serve your current clients: Businesses are starting to use social networking as a way to answer people’s questions. A number of big companies, such as Dell, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos have used sites, such as Twitter as a great way of listening to customers complaints about their business. They can keep in contact with customers to listen to their challenges and in some cases resolve their customers queries over Twitter in a matter of minutes.

6. More effectively communicate with a larger audience: Social networking is not only great for creating one on one connections, but also staying in touch with large numbers of people. The challenge in the pre-internet era was keeping in contact with more than 100-200 people in your network. The new social networking site Path is based on the premise that people can only handle a maximum of 150-200 connections at any one time.

7. (May 2012 Update: It is great for business. The reality is that social media is great for connecting with your target market. Ignore that at your own peril.)

Cons

1. Takes time to develop: The great thing about social networking is that you can do it at a fraction of the cost of some other traditional marketing techniques. The downside is that this strategy might take more time for most businesses to develop the type of following and brand you want to successfully keep your business thriving. (Update September 2012: One of the biggest reasons my clients approach me is because they do not have enough time to develop their social networking strategy.

2. Negative press about your business spreads faster and wider: When something goes wrong in the press now, I do not hear about it on CNN or MSNBC. Instead, my Twitter stream lights up like Christmas Eve. Post after post about the reported incident are out so quickly that the truth will no doubt be far behind. That means companies must make sure that they are listening, just so they do not get slammed. Comcast learned that lesson the hard way in 2006 when one of their technicians fell asleep on the job. The customer video taped the session and put it on Youtube where it went viral and stayed on the first page of Google for over 3 years. I just Googled “Comcast” and still found that video listed on the second page of their results. 3 years, because one technician nodded off.

3. Does not conform to the old marketing methods: I love social networking. At the same time, I do get the need to just go back to the old ways. Sometimes social networking can add some extra steps in the sales process. They are valuable steps, but when I was in mortgages and cold calling people left and right it was great. Call enough people and get some deals.

4. Your business and life are more exposed: This thought goes along with number six, and it is worth stating separately. You have to be careful of what is put online. You do not know who will see your post and what they will gleam from it. I know people who have put up security tapes around their home to protect themselves from invasion of an eccentric follower. Be careful!

5. Social networking distraction trap: I will just go onto Facebook to post my new blog post. Ooh, what is this article via Mashables. 30 minutes later as I am watching that last video on Youtube, I remember that I need to get back to my original task. Discipline yourself against these excursions of the web.

6. Every thought, comment, and post is there for the world to see for the rest of your life and beyond: When you meet someone at an event and tell them about your business and make a folly of the connection it will generally not follow you around for the rest of your life. Comments made through social networking can and do have the possibility of haunting you years later. Be aware of this as you traverse through social networking.

Weighing The Social Media Pros And Cons

With the pros and cons in mind, it really just comes back to having a great social networking strategy to help you define your business online. As you understand the social networking pros and cons of business you can navigate your business a little more safely than before.

What do you think? Which side of war of the social networking pros and cons for business do side with?

Digital Marketing Checklist Pop Up Image