Yes, I'm trying to start a new life doing social networking for the folks I know and love at the Farmer's Markets. What is below is the roughest of concepts of what I want to do. I haven't formatted this document, I haven't done anything beyond typing what you see below and some basic html. Somehow get here and want more information? You can email me at john@cooklocal.com.

Intro

What is social networking?

In many ways, it is just a buzz-word; a conglomeration of services that have existed in some part for many years. Services which allow you, as a business owner/entrepreneur/person, to give your customers a direct line of communication that goes beyond email, a transparency that not only allows you to open the blinds on the windows of your organization, but also allows you to converse back and forth with those customers.

Before the Internet, it was things like infomercials, travelling circuses populated by graphic wrapped vans, contests, whatever it took to get people talking about you. But now, it is networks like the below.

The Social Media Networks


Facebook (HTTP://www.Facebook.com)

Probably the most common question surrounding Facebook that comes up is 'What is the difference between Facebook and my companies own web page?'

Pretty much everything you can do on your Facebook fan page you could really do on a web page: Post photos, events, short updates and news items, links.

However, what Facebook allows is an easy way for your customers, your fans, to connect with each other. Also, it allows your fans who are already on Facebook to see information that you can also put on your website without leaving Facebook where they are likely to spend a great deal of time anyways.

Why don't I want to do this? A good Facebook fan-site takes some work (HTTP://www.techipedia.com/2010/how-to-use-Facebook-for-business-and-marketing/ for more information).


Twitter (HTTP://twitter.com)

You've heard of twitter. It's all the rage right now. But what is it really? It is, in a nutshell, a blog. But it has constraints. You are limited to 140 characters, and you can only send text. Applications have been written to help so that you can upload pictures, sounds and video to a different site and then point to the file with a URL like HTTP://twitpic.com/1jpsxg.

This is an excellent way to be able to jot off a quick message to all of your followers talking about what you're doing at that moment, some last minute announcements, big news, anything. Take a look at what we do with HTTP://twitter.com/cooklocal to see a little of what you can do with it.

Why don't I want to do this? You can get away with blogging only once or twice a week. Twitter, on the other hand, should really be used on a daily basis.

Not Social Media Networks per se

Podcasting

While not a network per se, podcasting is a way to speak directly to your customers while they are on the go.

Podcasting did, in fact, exist before iPods, but the name comes from the ubiquitous MP3 player from Apple. Imagine a blog or a newsletter, where one regularly updates articles for people to read. A podcast is just like that, except instead of text, it is an audio file that your customers will listen to, be it on their computers, their MP3 players or however they decide to listen. Why would you want to do a podcast? It allows you to talk, rather than write. It allows you to invite people in to talk with your customers. It allows your customers to consume your words while they jog, or drive. It allows you to more accurately convey your emotions to your customers.

Why wouldn't you want to? Podcasting requires some dedication. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, your blog, all of which can be transparently handed out to an external party, podcasting really requires hands-on work. You need to dedicate time to it, whether it is participating in another persons podcast as in a radio interview, or recording your own. If you are going to be recording your own, it also helps if you do them regularly, no less than once a month.


YouTube

YouTube, the video sharing website, allows people to set up their own channels for videos they produce.

As a business, a YouTube channel is a great way to let people actually see the inside of your business, what goes on behind the scenes. this is particularly good for those people who haven't come out to see you yet.

Why wouldn't you want to? The limitations are much the same as podcasting, except that a video can more easily be made 'on the go' while you do other things. One limitation not present in podcasting is that, unless you invest in workarounds, you also need a second person to help record the video.

Groupon

You pick a particular 'sale' to offer people (2 for 1, % off, what have you), your offer is presented to the users of groupon, who decide to spend $x to purchase the deal. If enough groupon users decide to take advantage of the deal, they get the coupon. If not, no groupon user gets charged.

Why shouldn't you want to? There is the potential for a crush of customers with a groupon deal. You can put in a limit to the maximum number of available coupons, however as with any coupon, you can stand to lose some money. The hope is concurrent purchases and repeat business.

What I do for you

We'll talk and see what works best for you and your customers. I'll show you the tools you should use, want to use, or even just want to know about and look at what options you need.

We'll chart out your course of actions and, over a period of days, weeks or months, I'll give you a hand in using the avenues you've decided to go with. If you wish me to simply continue doing it for you, we can work that out as well.