Social media and social network are terms that are often used interchangeably, although they are quite different. Social media is content that is uploaded, whatever it may be, a blog, a video, a podcast or more. It is content that you, the individual created and own, while other people can view and comment on it. Social networking, on the other hand, is about deciding which forms of social media you are going to use, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, to engage with your target audience. Knowing the distinction between the two can help you formulate a better social networking plan for your business.

Social Media Strategy
How do you want to connect with your audience? What works best for your business? Is it blogs and podcasts, or videos? Blogs are a good way to start, as they help brand their authors, increase exposure and are easily shared. Check out our blog on How To Build A Social Media Strategy for tips.

Social Networking
The days of in-person networking have been taken over by connecting on the internet. In the last few years, connecting on social networking sites has rocketed from a niche activity into a phenomenon that engages millions of internet users, across the world. A lot of these are people who you couldn’t meet at a local networking event. This allows you to reach thousands of potential customers online, tap into new markets and enhance your customer service.

However, with everyone being online, it’s important to know how to choose whom to connect with. There are two different types of networkers online—the posters and the seekers. When you run a small business, you are a poster, which means you actively post valuable information, resources, tips, and offers. Your customers are seekers – they’re actively seeking your products or services. Seekers can be found in discussion areas, forums, groups and engaging on fan pages.

Getting Started With Social Networking
The first step to getting started is to decide what media you’re going to use. Most small businesses have a Facebook business page. Twitter provides numerous opportunities to connect with your prospective audience through tweeting, sharing and engaging with people directly. LinkedIn is invaluable for businesses too. And depending on your products and services you might want to branch out with Snapchat and Instagram.

Social networking is all about engagement — creating relationships, communicating with your customers building your following and connecting with your online audience. You can’t treat social networking like social media. It’s important to listen as much as talk with social networking.

The right contacts are an important in social networking. You want to engage with ‘high level networkers’. On sites like LinkedIn, it usually means that they have at least 500 connections and are active online. High level networkers are usually decision makers and the movers and shakers of your specific industry. You don’t have to know any of these people personally. You can send them a message to let them know you’d like to connect with them online. Just don’t ask them to do something for you at this early stage.

The other group you want to connect with are ‘target market connections’. These are consumers at which you aim your products and services. You can find them by searching for keywords on social media websites. Target market connections are seekers who look for information online by asking questions and inviting people to answer. You can be one of the people answering their questions and engaging with them.

Social Networking Strategy
Just like social media, you need a social networking strategy. It’s not just about sending multiple invites to different people. Social networking is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time to build relationships and grow your connections as well as your followers. With any social media platform, you need to be creative and find ways to provide value and engage your target market. One of the best ways to accomplish this and position yourself as an industry leader is to build and launch a Facebook fan page. Fans are enthusiastic, and if they like what they see and read, they’ll connect with you, become loyal supporters and tell their friends. This is how word-of-mouth will grow.

Realize that there is some overlap and integration with social media and social networking. Experts in the field say that Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are what’s considered ‘whole package platforms’, that is they are both social media tools and social networking tools. In contrast, YouTube is a social media tool since it’s a platform for video. LinkedIn is for social networking as it’s a site for building connections.

You can now get started with your social networking strategy successfully. You can be more connected with your audience and be able to promote your products and services effectively, while also increasing the value of your brand.

Read more relevant blog post: Give These 5 Marketing Strategies to Boost a Startup Business