When you own a home-based business, you might not be certain which marketing tactics are a good option for you and which are too ambitious for your company. Social media, a very popular form of networking and marketing facilitated through websites like Twitter and Facebook, offers home-based business owners a fantastic marketing, branding and networking tool that costs nothing but time and a little creativity. If you are on the fence about adding time for social networking to your daily schedule, consider these six upsides to using social media. (For more assistance with your business, read In Small Business, Success Is Spelled With 5 "C"s.)

TUTORIAL: Starting a Small Business

1. Flexible Networking
There once was a time when you had to go out to a meeting, class or other group event in order to network with clients who might be interested in your product or service. With online social media sites, you can network with a targeted group of individuals on your own schedule, from the comfort of your office.

2. Global Reach
Without the internet it might be difficult and expensive to find clients overseas for your home-based business. Social media opens your service or product up to the world at no extra cost to you. While you might have to make adjustments in shipping costs when you sell your products to individuals all over the world, you can easily reach them and tailor different marketing strategies to them.

3. Camaraderie and Community
Working at home can be lonely. With social media, you can interact with other business owners and not only make valuable contacts, but also learn processes and procedures that can help you run your business. In addition, it gives you a way to let off steam and build relationships even while you are at home without any coworkers. (For more, check out Small Business: It's All About Relationships.)

4. Opportunities for Continuing Education
Industries, sectors, service standards and other aspects of business can change quickly and it is hard to keep up with all of these changes when you are on your own. Some social media sites are almost like continuous news feeds. If you follow the right people in your industry, you can get updates about changes as they happen. In addition, you can get links to blog posts and articles that discuss your industry and that can teach you different ways of running your business.

5. Data that can be Analyzed
There are a thousand different ways you can tweak your marketing messages in order to get the best response. Social media gives you measurable data to help you evaluate the response to your marketing attempts and fine-tune them so they reach optimum effectiveness. You can tell by traffic sources, responses, purchases and other data what works and what doesn't with each of your social media strategies. Even better, you can get this data almost instantly, although data gathered over a sustained period of time is likely to be more accurate.

6. Inexpensive Branding
Creating a brand identity for your company may be easy, but spreading that identity to the masses can be difficult and expensive. Social media gives you a tool for brand building and reinforcement that is free and simple. Just make sure that all of your social media messages and communications reinforce the brand that you are trying to create.

The Bottom Line
The opportunities given to home-based businesses by the easy accessibility of social media are almost limitless. With a little research and creativity, you may even find your own way to use social media that fits right into your business and marketing plans. The key is to strive for focused targeting as well as consistency of both message and volume. This helps you find followers who are ideal for your product and service and allows these potential clients to learn to trust you. Social media is good old-fashioned relationship building and networking in a sparkly, much more convenient box. (If you feel inspired, check out Start Your Own Small Business.)

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