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 most popular social network, with a reach 90% of U.S. mobile users, as of October 2018, the most recent data available, as of early 2019. It was followed, in order of popularity, by Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Pinterest, according to Statistica.com.

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

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

[Important: The fact that social networking is constantly evolving also makes keeping up with changes challenging, and influences a company’s marketing success rate.]

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

Key Takeaways

  • Social networking provides robust marketing opportunities for companies but can also put them at risk for PR disasters.
  • The most popular social network as of early 2019 is Facebook.
  • Marketers use social networking for increasing brand recognition and encouraging brand loyalty.
  • Social networking is constantly evolving, so keeping up with changes can be challenging.