What are Social Networks and How Can I Use Them in My Home Business

Definition of Social Networks and Tips to Using Them to Build Your Home Business

social networks for home business
••• Social Networks can connect you with your target market. Credit: Petar Chernaev | Getty Images

Traditionally, social networks are groups of individuals who share similar interests or traits. A more common description would be a club. Until the Internet, these groups could only get together in person either through a local organization or at an event (i.e. school reunion). 

The Internet changed how like-minded people can connect, first starting with usernets and later through online bulletin boards. In 1997, Six Degrees launched. It's considered the first social network where people could create a profile and engage with other users. Other networks followed, but it wasn't until the creation of MySpace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004 (expanding to include everyone in 2006), that social networking became mainstream. 

These networks were primarily for people with similar interests to hangout together. Only LinkedIn, started in 2003, was focused on professional networking related to careers and business. However, entrepreneurs are a creative bunch, they they were able to see the value of socially interacting with their target markets online, and they began to use social networking to expand their reach and grow their businesses. 

Most Common Social Networks Used in Business Today 

While many of the original social networks still exist, such as Six Degrees and Friendster, the most common social networks used by home-based business owners are:

Interestingly enough, YouTube is also viewed as a social network because it allows people to connect and engage around a topic. 

Advantages of Social Networks in a Home Business:

Social networks have been a game changer in helping small and large businesses find and connect with their target markets because:

1) They're free. While many networks have advanced features for an additional fee, the most popular networks and their basic features are free to use.

2) They make you accessible to your market. People like to do business with companies they can get to know and who respond to them. This builds rapport and trust, making your followers more likely to buy from you.

3) You can be more responsive to your market and its needs. Social media lets you chat, answer questions, solve problems, and  connect directly with your customers.

4) Benefit from relationships with influencers. Social networking doesn't just allow you to connect with your audience, but it also can be a great tool for networking with others who can help you build your business. 

Disadvantages of Social Networks in a Home Business:

While social networks offer a fantastic way to market your business, it's not without its pitfalls, such as:

1) It's time-consuming. Social networks are built on two-way communication. It's not enough to post your messages, you also need to engage with and respond to others, which over several networks can take time.

2) It can go wrong quickly. Social media spreads like wildfire, and once online, it never goes away. One wrong statement can damage your brand and online reputation.

3) It takes time to see results. Social media isn't about advertising, it's about connecting and building relationships with others. As a result, it works best as a way to build trust and rapport, which takes time. That means it can be a while before your "followers" buy from or hire you.

Social Networks for Job or Freelance Work Search

Social networks can be useful to those who are seeking legitimate work at home jobs or freelance work. In fact, most freelancers find their clients through social networking either through direct contact and building a relationship or through referrals from their followers and clients. Many social networks have the ability to build career connections. The most well-known social network for career tools and networking is LinkedIn.

Social Networks for Business Promotion

While strictly used for personal social networking initially, entrepreneurs are industrious people figured out how to use social networking as a marketing tool. From its birth, LinkedIn was geared more to fostering network connections within the business community and it's common for entrepreneurs and corporate managers alike to seek out partnership opportunities for their business. Today, most social networks, from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Instagram now have businesses who use their profiles to share information, entertain, and connect with their market.

However, there is a right and wrong way to use social networks in the promotion of a business. Posting "buy me" and other self-promotional content all the time is a sure way to lose followers. 

Success in social networking for your home business requires that you create a social media plan and develop systems to save time on social media. Also, focus on the social networking platforms that your target market uses. If your market isn't on Twitter or Instagram, then you don't need to be there. It's too difficult to be everywhere unless you can hire help. Instead, dominate one or two platforms.