Small business owners looking to better engage with their customers and increase revenue should learn from the success of new US president Barak Obama's use of social media tools, an online community expert has urged.
With over one million Facebook friends and the most followed person on Twitter, the team behind the US's new president exploited internet social networks like no other political campaign before them.
As well as generating coverage in traditional media, the Obama camp used audio, video and text to engage with supporters on new media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, FriendFeed, YouTube, FlickR, MeetUp and UStreamtv.
The campaign is reported to have directly resulted in over $250m worth of donations as well as capturing 1.4m email addresses.
Commenting on the tactic, William Buist, director of Abelard Management Services which advises business owners on how to benefit from internet communities, called on entrepreneurs to adopt similar techniques to drive up interest in their operations.
"By engaging with supporters, [Obama] was able to create that all important sense of connection – 'he's talking to me, he's in my network and he's someone I feel like I know'," he said. "He provided a chance to challenge, question and connect and by acknowledging the discussions, and made it feel like everything had been read and taken on board."
While Buist admitted that most business owners do not need to reach the kind of mass audiences that Obama required, social networks should still form a key part of an entrepreneur's marketing strategy.
"The key is understanding the importance of engaging with the customer in a way which encourages them to stay and continue to follow you", he added.
Research recently conducted by BusinessZone.co.uk showed three fifths of entrepreneurs have won customers as a direct result of online networking websites. Respondents to the poll also ranked internet communities as more effective at generating revenue than telephone cold calling, door-to-door selling and direct mail.