Social networking keeps Federal Way businesses connected

Online social networking is gaining popularity as a business tool, but good old-fashioned hobnobbing still serves a purpose.

Web-based networking empowers business owners and potential customers to connect and share, regardless of their physical location. But face-to-face interaction can leave a lasting impression.

“The more people you network and talk with, the more chance you have of finding people that need your service,” said Byron Hiller, Federal Way Coldwell Banker’s manager of the property management division.

The Internet is a means for businessmen and women to communicate. No longer are personal company Web sites enough. Interactive online social networking sites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook keep businesses and clients connected 24 hours a day — and permit real-time feedback. Plugging a business on social networking sites also puts the business and its services in front of potential customers that a business owner may not encounter in an everyday situation.

A global trend

The networking sites are used by large and small companies alike. Anyone signed up with the sites can add content and share their happenings in a forum available to other users.

Comcast, General Motors, H&R Block, Kodak and Whole Foods Market all use Twitter, according to a Sept. 6, 2008, Business Week article titled “How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brand.”

Some corporations, such as JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, use the service to track what their customers are saying about them. Comcast also uses the site as a customer service opportunity, contacting unsatisfied clients who just happen to blog about their dislike for Comcast, according to a July 7 Boston Globe article titled “Hurry up, the customer has a complaint.”

Still others see it as a way to introduce products.

Local successes

Epicenters of business, such as the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, have a presence on Facebook. Weyerhaeuser can be found on the networking site too. Keller-Williams Realty has a Facebook group established, so do the City of Federal Way and Hot Yoga.

At least one local business took social networking further than blogging and creating groups of friends. Federal Way’s Coldwell Banker, which offers property management options, began advertising on Facebook about six months ago, said Byron Hiller, manager of the property management division. Coldwell has tried traditional advertising, but this form is more affordable and has been a hit.

“(The company figured) let’s do one more thing and see how it goes,” Hiller said. “We try to be trendsetters.”

The venture is a success. Coldwell spends $10 a month to advertise on the networking site, Hiller said. The advertising is performance-based and the company pays depending on how many clicks the ad receives. For little cash, Coldwell has attracted new customers.

“We’ve received several accounts from the advertising,” Hiller said. “It’s more than paid for itself.”

Hiller and Coldwell don’t limit themselves to Facebook. The Federal Way branch, located at 33313 1st Way S., belongs to approximately six online social networks, he said. Coldwell uses the services mostly to keep in contact with customers who have already been established through other networking means, Hiller said.

Every time someone makes contact via the online social networking sites, Hiller’s cell phone notifies him of the waiting comments or questions. He can touch base with the customer nearly as soon as they show an interest in Coldwell.

While online contact is excellent for maintaing customers, personal contact is best for establishing new clients, Hiller said. This is why the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce holds regular luncheons. Coldwell representatives attend these local business networking opportunities.

“Face-to-face is always the best (to educate potential clients) because you can communicate much more effectively when you’re in front of someone,” Hiller said.

Regardless of how networking is done, the bottom line is that a business cannot prosper without it.

“Any business has got to network to survive, that’s for sure,” Hiller said.

Web editor's note: Federal Way Mirror headlines can often be found on Twitter, by following @pnwlocalnews, and on Facebook by becoming a fan of the page.

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