First, there was MySpace, and then came the juggernaut Facebook, which has now virtually taken over the web as far as major social networking sites go. Many businesses have had to combat the problem of workers using social network sites while on the job, but some business owners have also come to realize that social networks can be a great help. Used correctly, a social networking site can generate new business and increase productivity.
A 2008 article in "USA Today" by Jon Schwartz noted that businesses are increasingly using social networks to boost productivity by allowing employees to work collaboratively online. Employees working for large corporations with offices in different parts of the world can collaborate on various projects using social networking websites. Some companies have even developed their own internal social networks.
Some businesses have learned that social networking sites can provide an efficient way to advertise their products. It's common for Facebook and MySpace users to log in and see advertisements lining the outside column of their Internet browser. Based on information found on individuals' profiles, companies can post targeted ads on the websites to reach those who may have an interest in the product or service they offer. Geographic location, hobbies and even a person's career can determine what ads they see.
Social networks can also be an integral source of information about a business for consumers. Used properly, social networks can provide the essential information about a business without it having to pay for expensive advertising. Aside from networks like Facebook, blog sites are also social networking vehicles that allow for interaction between the blog's author and readers. Some social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have internal blogging tools that allow users to share information about their companies.
A fourth way in which social networking websites can help business is by allowing valuable feedback from customers and potential customers. Online forums provide a way for people to voice their opinions on specific topics, and the use of surveys on sites like Facebook is common. Businesses that know the wants and needs of their customers and respond to them are more likely to survive in the long run.