The Internet has been connecting people for years. But more recently, "personal" connections are all the rage. Just think about it. How many people are in your LinkedIn network? How many friends do you have on Facebook? Who are you following on Twitter and who is following you?
Social networking is exploding—and with it, the technique of viral marketing, or using social networks and word-of-mouth advertising to create buzz about new products or brands.
For example, Facebook reports more than 200 million active users and says more than 100 million users log in at least once a day. The company is also one of the top image-sharing services online. MySpace has more than 120 million users and gets 300,000 sign ups a day. What's more, the site reportedly has about 8 million users on its pages at any given time. Twitter has 20 million users in the U.S., alone. And YouTube has rapidly emerged as a leading product marketing channel.
Your Auctiva Commerce Store could benefit greatly from all of these sites. Think of all the potential buyers you could reach—and the potential sales they might bring. Yes, sales! Using feeds such as Google Base is a must to expose your store to people using search engines, but when you combine that with social networking, you're sure to give a boost to your traffic.
Give your business a 'face'
Social networking is about getting the name of your business out to people and connecting with them. This way they'll become familiar with you and your products, so when they need an item, they'll think of you. Be sure to put the link to your Auctiva Commerce Store on your profile so your "friends" will check it out. You could even create Facebook and MySpace groups for your store. Once you're part of that group, your friends may get a message on their homepages letting them know about it and asking if they want to join.
Twitter users no longer think of it as just a personal networking tool, but as something that can provide value for their company or business
You should also look for groups that could be interested in your goods. For instance, if you sell dog care products, find an animal-lovers' group. This will give you a whole new batch of potential customers, but remember not to push your products. You're trying to make connections, not turn people off. But a casual mention of promotions should go over well, especially if it's a product that could help the group.
You could also create an event when you're having a sale and send out invitations to your "friends." You might even create some buzz for your store by posting coupon codes in these invitations or sending them to your "friends" via e-mail. Just be sure to set limits on those coupons in your admin site so you don't run out of stock. We can hear the stampede already!
Micro-blogging site Twitter can also be a great tool for promoting specials and discounts. Many businesses are already using "tweets" to promote their enterprises. According to one survey, 66 percent of respondents said Twitter was "somewhat" or "extremely" important to their business. And 41 percent of respondents said this site is of "great value." LinkedIn was the second-favorite with 25 percent.
"The data shows that Twitter users, typically early adopters, no longer think of Twitter as just a personal networking tool, but as something that can provide value for their company or business," notes Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, the company that conducted the survey.
Remember, though, that tweets cannot be longer than 140 characters, so keep your messages brief and on point.
You could also look for followers of businesses similar to yours and "follow" them so they become familiar with you. This will likely put you in touch with users who have similar interests, and who are more likely to be receptive to your items.
Don't forget to tweet about non-business topics, too. This is a good way to come off as personable to potential customers. Twitter and other social-networking sites are about connections, and while sales could result from one of these connections, you first have to let people get to know you.
Nielsen Online reports that YouTube is the No. 1 entertainment site for consumer product advertising
The power of video
Users can easily post clips on Facebook and MySpace, as well as YouTube. Videos provide great advertising—and they can be very entertaining. Nielsen Online reports that YouTube is the No. 1 entertainment site for consumer product advertising. Many of these videos are made by ordinary people. That's not to say that you should put just anything online. But with a little creativity and some editing, you could create a popular clip that viewers will want to share with others, thus creating a viral effect.
The Utah-based company Blendtec did just that when it began posting videos of its blenders on YouTube. The clips were simple enough; a man in a lab coat puts different items in one of the company's blenders to see if the items will blend. Soon Blendtec had the 77th most-viewed channel on the site, notes George Wright, the company's vice president of marketing.
"It's about that magic that technology has evolved to," he said in an earlier interview with Auctiva Education. "…We wanted [the videos] to be powerful, but this just exceeded our expectations."
You may not have blenders in your Auctiva Commerce Store, but you'd be surprised at what can take off online. Just be sure to keep videos short. Viewers get bored easily, so don't make your clips longer than two minutes. Forget that YouTube allows videos that are 10 minutes long. And remember to post your videos on venues other than YouTube. Facebook, Google Video and Blinkx are just a few increasingly popular sites to consider.
Now go start connecting with others. Your Auctiva Commerce Store will greatly benefit from the exposure. Post links to your store in your social-network accounts, and link to any videos you make in your store's "About Us" page. Remember, when it comes to spreading the word about your store, it's all about going viral.