Manta has just become one in a line of small business online communities to add social connection and referral features for its members. The newest Manta program capitalizes on the “power of referrals,” essentially allowing users to recommend and/or follow a company and thus build that company’s online reputation. Even more important, the business owner is able to control those recommendations, allowing them to better manage their online profile. This offering from Manta followed a survey of over 1,000 small business owners that revealed that 78% of them had asked for recommendations and 60% had given recommendations for other businesses. The implementation of these social tools is designed to meet this unique business need.

Other online communities, such as Linked-in and PartnerUp, feature similar social networking offerings, although each company package is somewhat unique. For instance, Linked-in can not only be used for professional networking purposes, but it allows businesses to “follow” companies as well and receive notifications related to those followings. PartnerUp, on the other hand, offers streamlined messaging services that allow for easier networking. It’s recommended that business owners assess each site to determine the type of features that will best enhance their business and how they need to establish themselves online.

Regardless of the site, experts agree that online business communities offer key resources that are becoming critical to business growth. The informal online entrepreneur community has become so much more than a networking tool, offering strategies and advice for growth as well as key connections that can help small businesses better understand their audience and refine their message, and can even send traffic/business their way.

Experts cite the emergence of Manta’s new social component of one more sign of more and more business sites moving into the social networking realm—after all, the more interactive the site, the more traffic it draws. The convergence of social networking and small business no longer appears to be a trend but rather seems here to stay.

References

Payton, Susan. “Manta Adds Social Connections to Online Business Community.” Small Business Trends. 3/27/12. (3/28/12.) http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/03/manta-adds-social-connections-to-online-business-community.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SmallBusinessTrends+%28Small+Business+Trends%29.

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