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SOCIAL MEDIA: Get a social life

Social networking is one of the biggest web phenomena of the late noughties. You probably know fewer people who don't have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account than who do. And what started as a way for friends and family to connect has fast established itself as an innovative way for marketers to communicate online with business customers. Recent research by Nielsen Online indicated that social networking has overtaken email in popularity - an indication to marketers that if they're not already on the bandwagon, they need to jump onboard.

Excitingly for B2B marketers, a host of business specific sites have also made themselves available - where LinkedIn has established a presence others, such as Viadeo, Xing and BT Tradespace, have followed. Leveraging the benefits requires dedication, but if you're prepared to put in the time then sites like these can offer a wealth of marketing opportunities.

New functionality
The good news is that these sites are adding marketing-friendly functionality. LinkedIn HQ has been building its advertising practice in Europe over the past 18 months. "We've seen a rapid adoption of our services by marketers," says Henry Clifford Jones, head of advertising at LinkedIn. "They like the fact that we're in possession of an audience that are quite difficult to reach, and the fact they can target them by factors like industry and job title." This year LinkedIn has added new functions including polls and custom groups. Marketers can try out the poll function free of charge, or for a fee have a sponsored poll which will guarantee a certain number of responses within a given time. Custom groups allow for integration with the likes of RSS feeds, YouTube and Twitter. It has also added a new lead generation tool, and has announced a partnership with Twitter -allowing users to share status updates across platforms.