What is social networking?
For most people the term "social networking" is synonymous with the incredibly successful Facebook website. Although Facebook may not have been the original attempt by people to use computers to keep people in touch with each other it has certainly become the world's leader in providing people with a way to find new friends and share information with their current friends. If you've lost touch with somebody, perhaps from school days, then there is a good chance you can quickly find them on Facebook - no matter where in the world they may have ended up.
Social networking and wealth
There is an old cliche in business (now largely discredited) that goes "it's not what you know, it's who you know" that counts. What this saying really means is that if you are well networked into a business community then you are more likely to receive more referrals and direct purchases. When purchasing a service or product people prefer to buy from somebody they know and trust. Maintaining good contacts with customers is a strong way to ensure that they refer their friends to you, and purchase from you again. So really the saying should read something like "Having outstanding skills is essential, but having a good business network helps a lot"
If you don't already have a Facebook account and are wondering how it works - then there is no better way to learn than by just signing up and starting to use it. You'll be surprised at how simple the interface is and as you get more practiced some of the more advanced features will become apparent. x
Privacy on Facebook
It's important that you watch any information you are putting on Facebook. Your friends will be able to see all of your personal details (there is even a setting to share your details with the whole world). Facebook makes its money by advertising products and has been rumoured to be considering selling personal information to marketing companies. At one point Facebook was even broadcasting (through a system known as Beacon) exactly what you were purchasing on online shops. People have faced problems at work and in relationships because of what they write on Facebook. So watch what you say!
Making money on Facebook
Some computer programmers are making money by writing games and applications that run inside Facebook. Because there are millions of Facebook users there is a potentially large market available.
For the average business, however, Facebook is really an opportunity to share information with your customers. A friend of mine runs an "Adventure Experience" company that takes young adults out on adventure sports activities. Last weekend she took a group up Table Mountain and abseiled off a rock. By Monday all 778 of her Facebook friends (mostly her previous customers) were able to see photographs of this intrepid band of people dangling off a mountain from a rope. People were commenting on the photographs and were all seeing exactly what they missed by not purchasing her service. More importantly my friend was able to put a short note underneath her photographs directing people to her website and saying when the next adventure was happening.
Carla is not a computer programmer and is not a marketer, she is in fact a SCUBA instructor. But was able to get a highly effective marketing message across. You can too!