Mother of three Mel McGee writes and speaks about using the Internet to run home businesses
Can Setting Up A Social Networking Site Help Your Product Launch?
Granted, for anyone already in business Social Media is clearly the most significant marketing tool since the invention of the discount coupon. But how relevant is social networking to someone developing a new product or service? And can setting up your own social network make your own launch more successful?
I put some questions to social networking expert and Supermummy network Founder, Mel McGee.
Hi Mel, so can you tell us a bit about the Supermummy network and how you came to set it up?
I set up the Supermummy website at www.supermummy.com to give mums an all-in-one resource connected with building an online business from home. It's grown from just a few web pages to an information-based website, a mumpreneur social network, a private members site and an internet radio talk show.
I wanted to help mums chose the right kind of website to suit them (there's more than one kind!) and show them how to work smarter by having their website and automated systems do some of the "work" for them.
So what does Social Networking mean exactly? And how does it fit with those other "Socials" - Social Media and Social Marketing (and any others?)
For the best results, Social Networking must be considered as an online form of networking. So a very simple comparison is Social Networking, like Facebook, is similar to going to a party or business event and making connections. And Social Media, like Twitter, You Tube and blogs, allow you to broadcast yourself instead of using the 'traditional' media channels like newspapers, radio and TV.
It's worth getting yourself a profile on all the major social networking sites, including Linked-In and Ecademy, for more professionals connections. But to get the best results you will need to put consistent time and effort into at least one preferred site.
How do people benefit from belonging to social networks?
The fact is that most people are online looking for information and to connect with others. Being part of a social network gives you a place where you can connect with and build relationships with like-minded people from all over the world, from the comfort of home at a time that is convenient for you. She's Ingenious! is a social network, of course.
Using Social Networking to find and connect with people like ourselves is one thing. But why would anyone want to create their own Social Network themselves?
Because the prediction is that niche social networks are the next BIG thing. The trend has already begun and if you check out groups on Facebook you'll see hundreds of thousands with a common interest, passion or cause.
Leading your own social network gives you the opportunity to build an online community around what's important to you. There are various ways that you can turn that into a business, too.
For someone developing a new product or business idea, they're usually pretty focused on getting that product right, protecting it, and finding ways to sell it. What would they stand to gain by diverting some of that attention to setting up a social network of their own?
I think it's actually a great strategy for anyone who has the intention of selling a product to a specific target market.
As part of your market research, testing, marketing and sales strategy you could build a community of people likely to be your target market. As long as you were reasonably transparent about letting your members know what you were working on, and you provided them with other valuable content, you might find that your first customers are right there. Certainly it would be a useful survey and testing ground.
How easy is it to set one up? How long does it take? And how much does it cost usually?
For anyone wanting to really connect with their website visitors or build a network of like-minded people, starting a simple blog (which can be free, depending on how you do it) is an easy way to get started online and get some visibility. Blogs encourage interaction because the reader has the option to leave comments, but that's really as far as they go. A Facebook group, free to set up, is also a good way for people with a common interest to communicate.
Setting up a Social Networking presence is straightforward. When you know how. But knowing how to build a tight membership that you can then, say, test a new product idea with or even sell new products too, is a lot harder.
What kind of topics would women be likely to set up a social network around?
The more specific you can be about your niche and target market the better. Sites that are built around a strong interest or hobby have great potential. Think of things women get involved with anyway - eating healthily, sewing or knitting, or other crafts, bringing up a family on a budget, keeping fit, make-up and hair, managing finances, running a home business.
The list is endless actually, once you start to look around for inspiration. Or even think about what YOU are really interested in. To be successful, you need to have a passion for your chosen topic yourself.
Hmmm. I'm thinking of one strong community area where building a social network seems obvious. Lisa Irlam, inventor of the Pool-Mate www.swimovate.com lap counter and timer for swimmers and triathletes (and speaker at our January She's Ingenious! Meet-up www.shesingenious.org/poolmate.html ), told me a strong community seemed to spring up quite naturally around the Web soon after the Pool-mate was launched. It was helped by YouTube endorsements from Olympic athletes. People are sharing tips with each other on the Web and talking about how they use the Pool-Mate in training. What would be your advice to Lisa?
Lisa Irlam's Pool-Mate happened to tap into a natural Social Network
Lisa could focus in on swimmers, and more specifically, competitive swimmers who are discussing lap times, training, maybe particular events with each other. That might still be a big niche, so Lisa could focus in further, on competitive male or female swimmers, or college swimmers. The purpose of niching your social network site is to help the first time visitor to your site decide if it's a good place for them to connect with others. You want them to think "That's me! This is my kind of place!"
Then she'd come up with a great name, build a social network site and invite all those people across to join as the founder members and grow it from there. By building a strong community with a passion for their interest, Lisa would have a testing ground for future swimming-related product ideas, and even a direct sales channel for upgraded versions of the Pool-Mate, as well as other products for competitive swimmers. It would be a great place to gather further customer testimonials for promotional purposes too.
I know you're launching the "Social Network Success System" this month on www.Supermummy.com. How does it make things easier for someone to set up their own social network?
My home study course the "Social Network Success System" makes a hard process, simple! I take you through each step from choosing the right niche and brand to designing your logo and website, launching and marketing your site and the various ways in which you can create multiple income opportunities from it.
Packages start from £497 for the Do-It-Yourself option, and go up to the complete Done For You package where we consult with you first then design your social networking site and hand it over to you to launch and maintain.
You could have your site up and running in as little as a month with monthly running costs from around £20. It's great value for a website based around your niche, and one that you can test and sell your own product through, too.
I can see that's great value. It would be like setting up your own marketplace. AND you don't have to wait til your product launch to start earning income around your product idea. As well as using it for getting feedback on your product features, pricing, business model, right early on.
So where does someone go to find out more? And can you do a special deal for anyone reading these She's Ingenious! tips?
You can read more about the "Social Network Success System" here.
AND I'll give any She's Ingenious! followers an extra £50 off if they order the "Social Network Success System"with the promo code SI2010 by 31st January.
If you already know the niche you're working in with your product, there's no need to wait to get to know and market to them until the launch of your new product. Put simply, the sooner you start, the sooner you've got a business and not just a business idea.