What Is Social Networking?

Social networking is the use of Internet-based social media sites to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues, customers, or clients. Social networking can have a social purpose, a business purpose, or both, through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, among others. Social networking has become a significant base for marketers seeking to engage customers.

Despite some stiff competition, Facebook remains the largest and most popular social network, with over two billion people using the platform. It was followed, in order of popularity, by Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Pinterest, according to Statistica.com.

Key Takeaways

  • Social networking is the use of Internet-based social media platforms to stay connected with friends, family, or peers.
  • While always changing, the most popular social networking sites in the U.S. include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Marketers use social networking for increasing brand recognition and encouraging brand loyalty.

How Social Networking Works

Marketers use social networking for increasing brand recognition and encouraging brand loyalty. Since it makes a company more accessible to new customers and more recognizable for existing customers, social networking helps promote a brand’s voice and content.

For example, a frequent Twitter user may hear of a company for the first time through a news feed and decide to buy a product or service. The more exposed people are to a company’s brand, the greater the company's chances of finding and retaining new customers.

Marketers use social networking for improving conversion rates. Building a following provides access to and interaction with new, recent and old customers. Sharing blog posts, images, videos, or comments on social media allows followers to react, visit the company’s website, and become customers.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Networking in Marketing

Customers may complement the company’s offerings and encourage others to buy the products or services. The more customers are talking about a company on social networking, the more valuable the brand authority becomes. As a brand grows stronger, more sales result. Increased company posts rank the company higher in search engines. Social networking can help establish a brand as legitimate, credible, and trustworthy.

A company may use social networking to demonstrate its customer service level and enrich its relationships with consumers. For example, if a customer complains about a product or service on Twitter, the company may address the issue immediately, apologize, and take action to make it right. However, criticism of a brand can spread very quickly on social media. This can create a virtual headache for a company's public relations department.

Although social networking itself is free, building and maintaining a company profile takes hours each week. Costs for those hours add up quickly. In addition, businesses need many followers before a social media marketing campaign starts generating a positive return on investment (ROI). For example, submitting a post to 15 followers does not have the same effect as submitting the post to 15,000 followers.

Special Considerations of Social Networking

Because every business is unique and has a different target demographic, history, and competitive marketplace, no single marketing strategy works for every business.

The constantly evolving nature of social networking makes it challenging to keep up with changes, and also influences a company’s marketing success rate.

Because social networking companies want businesses paying for advertising, companies often restrict the number of reach businesses may receive through unpaid posts. For example, if a company has 500 followers, followers may not all receive the same post.