Social Networking For Business

Social networking sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter offer great opportunities to connect with other like-minded people.  Not all such sites are equal when it comes to business or community related connections.

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MySpace & FaceBook – The Downside

MySpace and FaceBook can be used to connect with others in business or the community, however both are much more open to “friendly” or “social” experiences, and thus vulnerable to put you, your business or organization on the defensive.

For example, both allow you to post photos, write messages directly on the profile pages of your “friends”, and allow your “friends” to post messages on your profile, and connect with just about anybody.

So your personal profile page may in fact be professional to the degree that those sites allow for a polished experience except you’re not capable of controlling what goes on the profile pages of those you connect with, or what they post on your profile (unless you make your privacy settings lock-tight) and this openness requires a great deal of diligence and monitoring.

Of course, if your market or the community you are looking to connect with makes ample use of MySpace or FaceBook, then by all means, consider participation. Just be aware of the limits and potential for situations that might otherwise be avoided by using other social networks.

Update 3/14 – Lisa Barone from Outspoken Media was at the PubCon conference this week and reported on the Social Media & Business session.  Some interesting concepts about using FaceBook for business I hadn’t tapped previously.  The caveats I describe here related to reputation managment still apply though.

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LinkedIn
www.LinkedIn.com

LinkedIn is a much more tightly controlled environment.  Though far from perfect, LinkedIn was created first and foremost as a business and community collaboration environment.

On FaceBook and MySpace, your connections are called “friends”.  On LinkedIn, your connections are called just that – “connections”.

The people you choose to connect with through LinkedIn are most typically going to be people who you have in the past or do in the present, have a working relationship with.  Alternately, they’re people you meet through the LinkedIn system in the Business and Community Q&A system or through LinkedIn professional or community groups.

On LinkedIn you can only have one photo – and it’s a tiny thumbnail for your profile page, subject to being denied by LinkedIn staff if they feel it’s inappropriate for this environment.

Main LinkedIn Features
·    Individual and company profiles
·    Connect with business contacts locally, regionally and internationally
·    Ask business related questions
·    Provide expertise to others seeking your knowledge
·    Business leads and opportunities
·    Job Postings
·    Network with everyone or just your connections

Your LinkedIn Profile
This page is ideally suited to set you apart from the vast majority of LinkedIn profiles.  A well crafted profile page here can help communicate your unique experience, business offerings or community organization’s value.

This is also the page that people come to when you participate in the Q & A area, post jobs, or participate in groups, and they want to learn more about you.   If you’ve been given recommendations from other LinkedIn members, they’ll be listed here.  And if any of the answers you provide in the Q&A section have earned “best answer” status, that information will be displayed in your profile page’s “Expertise” box.

LinkedIn Q & A
Personally, I find this to be the most powerful resource on LinkedIn.  Split out into several business / community related categories, it allows you to submit a question that can then be answered by others who have expertise in a given field.  Of course, some people post answers just for the sake of earning ego points, yet more often than not, somebody will come along and provide you an answer, or recommend you contact someone who is an expert.

This is also the ideal place for you to provide answers for questions where you have the expertise or know where to find the information someone else is seeking.  If you answer questions in a way that truly helps the person asking, I’ve found that this leads to others wanting to seek out your help or hire you, so it’s actually a powerful round-about marketing tool as well.…

Be aware though – what most people find is that if you go into the Q & A section with the primary intent to drum up business, you’ll fast find yourself being frowned upon.   The more genuine you are in your desire to offer guidance for its own sake, them more people will find you professional and trustworthy.

LinkedIn Free or Paid?

The vast majority of people I connect with have free LinkedIn accounts.  You may find the network so valuable that you choose to pay for an upgrade.  Oddly enough if you want to consider which level of service to choose, you first have to dig to get the comparison chart.

To read the chart, scroll to the bottom of the LinkedIn site then click on ABOUT

Then on the left column, click on FAQ & Stats

Then finally, scroll down to the question How Much Does It Cost.

There you will find a link to Business Accounts

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Twitter
www.Twitter.com

Twitter is essentially a hybrid between instant messaging and blogs.  With Twitter you can send out short burst messages.  Anyone who has signed on to follow your “tweets” (Twitter submissions) can read them.  And you can sign up to follow other people as well.

Twitter For Business
Where Twitter is used for business is as vast a possibility as your creativity and imagination.

Ways Twitter Can Be Used For Business / Community Organizations
·    Announce Upcoming Sales
·    Conduct Surveys
·    Inform & Motivate

Example Tweets

CALL FOR ACTION

Since the flood this weekend, the Novato Blood bank needs donors ASAP! Come donate & help support your community! 123 East West Way, Novato

PRODUCT SURVEY

If Company XYZ offered a new product that could save you 5 hours a week organizing your bills, what would you be willing to pay for this?

LIVE EVENT UPDATE

Speaker just said they expect the State budget will cause 18,000 layoffs in the education sector!  Email your legislator and protest!

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The Social Temptation

One aspect of sites like these is for people to get caught up in the social experience.  Quite often, I see perfectly professional people morph into their more emotional human side when interacting on these sites.  All it takes is one person posting a hot-button question or statement that sets off a chain reaction of controversy.

With FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter, when this happens, you could very easily end up seeing your profile page riddled with negative comments or statements.

As much as you have the ability to then go and delete this information, if you aren’t constantly monitoring your profile, you leave yourself, your business or organization vulnerable to negative PR.

And if you don’t act fast enough to remove it, those negative comments on your profile page or in your answer to a controversial question or statement could easily end up in Google…

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BLOGS & DISCUSSION FORUMS

Setting up a blog for your business or organization provides you the opportunity to build high quality content related to your area of focus or market.  Most often, what goes into a blog needs to be related, but at the same time, it’s typically not a direct selling environment.  Instead, a blog is a great place to provide your prospective clients or customers, or community members with information that helps empower them in their daily lives.

Marketing Rules For Blogging

·    Post only timely, relevant information
·    Embed links to 3rd party non-competitive sites for more information
·    Embed links to your business or organization site
·    Be subtle about your marketing
·    Consider allowing comments only if it’s appropriate
·    Require people to be signed in to comment
·    Require all comments to be approved by you before displaying them
·    Use “Perma-Links” in your blog settings for search engine optimization

Other People’s Blogs
In the same way that you can participate in the LinkedIn Q & A system, you can also participate in other people’s blogs.  By choosing blogs that are relevant to your market or area of expertise, when you submit comments that are high quality and offer real value to the conversation, other people who read those blogs will inevitably want to learn more about you, your business or organization.

So be sure to set up a profile page that links to your web site if this option is offered on a blog, or when you go to submit your comment, there’s usually a field to provide a web address so take advantage of that.

Discussion Forums
When you participate in discussion forums, it’s even more important to participate in a positive and contributory way to the discussion rather than blatantly promoting your offerings.  (Some forum moderators will routinely ban abusers of this rule)

In Discussion Forums it’s perfectly acceptable to use your profile page to market your offerings, so take advantage of that.  If you do a good enough job at providing real value in your participation of discussions, people will click through to your profile, so that’s where you can feel free to pitch your offerings.

Reputation Reputation Reputation
The most important guidance I can offer is first and foremost, consider reputation management before participating in any blog or discussion forum.

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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2 Comments

  1. Joannah says:

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  2. Thanks Joannah! Wow – I totally blew the first reply attempt in not even spelling your name right. Sometimes I effortlessly prove how human I am!

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