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Social Networking For Business Goes (More Mainstream) With Microsoft, Google Moves
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By Rich Karpinski

Still doubt that social networks will play a role in marketing your small business? Think Facebook is the next "Friendster", fated to fade into oblivion?

Think again.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is eying a 5% investment in Facebook for...hold your seat... close to $500 million, valuing Facebook at close to $10 billion. Writes WSJ:

Some industry executives believe the Internet today is facing the sort of turning point that the computer-operating-system sector confronted two decades ago: Whoever controls the technology platform for buying and selling online ads could hold tremendous power over the Internet industry for years to come -- much as Microsoft was able to use its Windows operating system to shape the personal computer.


Today, Google controls much of the Internet ad market. But major growth is occurring in the social networking area, so that looks like the next battleground.

For small businesses, advertising into social network sites could soon become a key marketing strategy. Social network sites not only have large numbers of users, but they have groups and hubs of users or "friends" making them potentially a perfect venue for the type of viral, word-of-mouth marketing that small businesses crave.

Google is not to be outdone in the social network market, however. Rumors have it the search giant is planning its own major move within weeks, basically aggregating all of its Internet properties -- including search, email, photos and social network site Orkut -- into a new social networking hub.

That's just one more reason for small businesses to keep their eye on the marketing opportunities in the social network area.

And what are those opportunities. Information Week recently took a look at social networking for business in a major feature story and found opportunities for customer collaboration as well as employee time-wasting:

The trick for businesspeople interested in using social networks and for IT departments that need to monitor and manage access to them is to steer clear of the time-wasting stuff while leveraging the collaborative potential. An InformationWeek Research survey earlier this year found that social networks were used by 48% of compa- nies responding. Uses include viral marketing, recruiting, peer networking, and even emergency coordination and communications.


What do you think about tapping social networks for small business success? Is it a fad, or the wave of the future? Let us know in the comment section below.

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