Using Social Networking To Survive A Slow Economy
July 6, 2009

Many small business owners are asking themselves what they can do to get their sales jump started.  It’s been a bit of a slow year for most, due to current economic conditions.  Maybe a really slow year for some.  Many Americans are frustrated with their situation.  They are looking for an escape.
The Wall Street Journal noted that Americans are spending an increased amount of time online – on entertainment sites, or even social networks.  Sometimes it’s to find an escape – something that doesn’t remind them of their economic situation, of their lack of a job, or of their current responsibilities. 
Sometimes they go online for more productive reasons too.  With more and more opportunities for bargains to be found online, and more resources on the internet now than ever, it makes sense that people do their product research online.  People use social networking to pass the word on deals they’ve found, bragging about their latest finds to their friends. The hottest news and bargains pass virally and much more quickly than any other form of advertising.
Josh Catone, Rhode Island writer and founder of Rails Forum, says that Americans are turning to social networking sites as a way to network and find jobs, reconnect with old friends, and commiserate with others in the same situation.  In fact, according to the Journal, social networking sites are seeing a huge growth.  They call it a form of “social anesthesia.”
It’s not unlike the movie watching boom that took place during the Great Depression.  People who’d lost their jobs would spend a nickel or so to watch movies at local theaters in order to take their mind off of the harsh reality of their daily lives – not knowing how they’d pay their bills or where their next meal might come from.   While movies today cost significantly more than a nickel in the theater, the internet can provide hours of entertainment at practically no cost. 

Dr. Robert Kraut, Carnegie Mellon professor, noted that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, there was a huge surge in internet traffic.  He used terms like ‘sensemaking’ and ‘escapism’ to describe motivations for users surfing the internet in these times.  This same pattern seems to be repeating in our current economic downturn.

If people are now turning to the internet and particularly social networking more and more for not only entertainment but to seek out better deals on products and services, it makes sense for companies to turn to that medium to get involved in the communities that people are active in.