As a category, social networking sites are probably the most widely used sites on the internet after search engines. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are mentioned as the power houses of the internet, along with Google. So if you're trying to market a business online, you can't overlook their potential as a small business marketing tool.
Almost everyone that is online now has a Facebook profile or a Twitter account, and each of these people can be considered a potential customer. By trying to find ways to promote your products on those sites, you are going to be reaching many more customers than you would if you just stuck to other methods of online marketing, like SEO. This isn't a recommendation that those methods be abandoned, but rather a suggestion that you can create an even more successful business by augmenting your existing internet marketing campaign so that it includes these more social advertising opportunities.
There are two ways to boost your sales through social networking sites. The first is to use the sites as a marketing tool and create profiles for your business on these sites. This is a great way to interact with your customers, grow trust in your brand, and to start and open an engaging dialogue about your services and niche with the public.
If you choose to do this on Facebook, you will set up a business page, rather than a normal profile. There is no such distinction on Twitter. Then on Facebook, rather than having people become friends with your business like they would with your personal profile, they will 'like' your business page instead. This is a great way to build a following. On Twitter, you would set up and run a business profile similar to how you would a personal.
There are also paid advertising options that you can explore in the realm of social networking. Because social networking is still relatively new in terms of the life of the internet, there is still likely going to be more growth and development in how these advertising models work. As it is, though, there are ways that you can pay to advertise your products through social networks; most notably and powerfully, through Facebook.
Facebook has a powerful system for buying advertising. This works on a system like that used by the major search engines; a pay per click system. This means that you will bid a certain amount that you want to pay each time a person clicks on your ad. You will then only pay when someone actually clicks through to your ad, not just when your ad is displayed. This is a great model for at least ensuring that your message is being seen.
The great aspect of these ads is like everything else on social networking sites, they're social. If someone likes an ad that you've posted, they can actually 'like' it. This will get it to show up their news feed, and the news feeds of their friends, who will then hopefully click on the link, 'like' it, and repeat the process. This social aspect of advertising is what makes the process of advertising with Facebook so appealing. People are also much more likely to trust a product or company when it comes recommended by a friend than if it was simply a random ad appearing on a web page.
With Facebook, there is also a strong market for advertising within applications, as well as on the primary pages. So, if you have an ad that is successful or an ad that is in a successful application, then the social sharing aspect of the site should make your message spread like wildfire.