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Social Networking - the move towards business applications
By Jerry Sexton, PGM Integrated

Social networking is often referred to as an online community of people who share interests or activities and use such tools as chat, messaging, email, video, file sharing, blogging, discussion groups, etc to exchange ideas and information. What you may not realize is it is quickly changing the way people do business.

You may have seen your kids spending hours online setting up personal profiles and communicating with their friends through many of the traditional social networking sites.

Most business leaders tend to think of these social networking sites as only, and feel that only the 15-25 year old demographic market are using these sites. Maybe you 40+ professionals are starting to use social networking to meet up with your high school or college classmates and you 60+ are doing genealogy research. However a very large growth trend online is towards the development of social networking sites targeted for the working professional.

For example - is oriented towards working physicians to allow them to exchange ideas for treatments of patients. is oriented towards the video production industry to exchange ideas on how to do their jobs better. allows working professionals to network with their peers and their industry contacts and their contacts, and their contacts, and on, and on, looking for jobs, contacts with companies and business prospects.

These sites serve a variety of different purposes. Let's be honest, very few people dedicate time, money and resources into developing sites with out also having a monetary gain as a requirement. Some companies use it in their marketing mix for market penetration. Using viral marketing techniques they are able to get viewers to go to their posted sites, video clips and message boards. Care should be exercised, when individuals go to message boards and post messages touting their products or services and slamming their competition. Either way, it is a fact of life that social networking allows you to target potential customers in a narrowly defined community that you can reach out to. As online marketing becomes a larger piece of media budgets - so too will social networking.

Several companies use social networking sites for:
1 - Market Research
2 - Product Development, Testing and Support
3 - Developing an online community of users, developers, and potential customers
4- - Advertising via word of mouth - guerilla marketing
5 - Lead generation
6 - HR job recruitment
7 - Reconnecting for hiring back past associates
8 - Customer service forums - where answers to customers problems are answered by other customers versus employees
9 - Market intelligence as reported by the Wall Street Journal charges companies $100,000 to $150,000 a year to allow them to monitor doctor's online discussions and see what their opinions are on different drugs and treatments. Companies such as hedge funds feel this analysis is invaluable for judging how different products are perceived in the marketplace and can react to perceived negative impact (stock prices) in a proactive manner.

Truthfully though - most people still haven't discovered all of the business uses of online social networking. It is still a new and developing technology and method of communication and as the sphere of users continues to expand - so will the business uses for it. was only officially launched in December, 2005 and was just bought by Google for $1.65 billion (yes I said billion) in November, 2006. alone attracts over 55 million individual users a month. Imagine - all those potential millions of viewers online - and now the question is how to get in front of them all. Look likes you may want to see what is going on online - by the way - are you LinkedIn?

Jerry Sexton is President of PGM Integrated, where "Creativity meets Technology" for innovative advertising, marketing, PR and interactive solutions. A retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, and a former co-owner of Digital Metropolis, he has extensive experience on the integration of new digital technologies online and in the workplace. He can be reached at 720-875-2234 or at

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