Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Social Media for SA Entrepreneurs

As an indicator of just how popular social media has become amongst South African entrepreneurs we recently created a Facebook group for South African entrepreneurs and investors and within the first three weeks, membership grew to well over 1000, showing not only the popularity of entrepreneurship in the country but also how social media is increasingly becoming an option for entrepreneurs to source the resources need to drive their businesses forward.

South African entrepreneurs are flocking to social networks such as Facebook and twitter as new avenues to finding the business finance needed for starting or growing their businesses.

With the growth of social media and its uses in the last few years, innovative entrepreneurs are going online in the hordes to attract the business finance they require. Following the recent economic slowdown banks may have tightened their lending policies and entrepreneurs around the country has seen this simply as an invite to find alternative sources of financing and support.

Where services such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been successful bringing entrepreneurs, clients and business investors together based on affinity and mutual interests, business-networking services are increasingly being used by small business owners to source the business finance that they need. Along with LinkedIn are such offerings as Ryze and Tribe.net. My take? This use of online, friend/associate-based networking will prove to be one of the most valuable business tools the Internet has yet provided.

Although the number of these services available to entrepreneurs and business people is growing, LinkedIn strikes me as the easiest to embrace, and the most effective. Typically, each service has formal sign-up steps that assist you in creating your online identity. This may include information relating to your current job, previous positions, and general interests. Some business networking sites enable you to publish you own "blog," or join specific community discussion groups.

Often, the key to using a business network successfully involves the creation of your personal friends — or business connections — group. The registration process is similar across the various social networking websites but LinkedIn boasts one of the simplest methods of inviting and maintaining your social network. By simply uploading an exported file from your contact manager, LinkedIn can immediately tell which friends of yours are members of the service. This method of contact maintenance and connection group development makes LinkedIn a breeze to start with, immediately enabling you to gain access to your contacts, without having to laboriously enter emails to discover if associates are already there.

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