Social networking
The new wave of the internet


The so called new age of the Internet, social networking, is something of a mis-nomer really, as the internet as always been about social networking. Only today, we have a lot more tools to accomplish it. There have always been tools out there, but most of them faltered pretty rapidly, as they didn't take the concept far enough. That has changed.

Tools for social networking:

Blogs:

At one time a blog was just a personal soap box, that only geeks knew about, and generally, they were hard to find. Now, if you don't have a blog, you are considered last weeks news. So, is it worth doing ? Answer, yes, but ... only if you have information that can be added on a regular basis.

Personal blogs have always been around, but the new kid on the block is blogs with a purpose, beyond sociableness. As it now stands, there are entire search engines, devoted to the blog sphere, to where you can now find almost anything. So it's not just a matter of having new content, you have to treat your blog, just like you do your website, which is to get it out there, get it listed on these special engines and directories, and get it noticed.

Realize one thing however, blog posts linger on the web forever. They get nabbed and recycled, like yesterdays newspaper, which, if it's good advertising, this is great. However, if it's a bash or rant about your competitors, that too gets grabbed and lives on, long after you might have re-thought the wisdom of the post.

So think longevity, think in terms of, will this information come back and bite me. As it can, all too easily. So whomever runs your business blog, has to be as much of a public relations person, as they are a journalist, even if the blogger is you.



Myspace, Facebook, forums, and others.

If you are not there, you are invisible again, as if you didn't have a website. It doesn't matter what your personal thoughts on such networks are, the simple fact is, if you are not on them, it is like you forgot to include your phone number and address, on your business cards. It is as much a business tool now, as having a web site, and has to be treated accordingly.



The netiquette, and optimal use, of such social networks

Get your name out:

It does you little good to have a profile page, if its under your personal name.( Unless the networking site forces you too ) Business name first, with the same branding effort, as you do for your website. You can also, as a rule, create business pages for your site, ON the networking sites.

Leave comments but only "real" comments.

Leave your name everywhere you go, when you post comments, a link to your profile, is created automatically on many networking sites. However .... warning, mind that your comments are "real" comments, and that you keep such comments clean. The number of those who defy this rule are many, and they are as obvious as a wart on your nose. People hate them, as they know they only reason you left a comment, is to plug your business, it's spam, and they resent it and therefore YOU. So leave comments, but only where they are appropriate.

Focus on your target:

The social networks are extremely board in scope, so you need to fine tune your presentation and advertising to a specific group. You cannot hope to cover them all, so don't waste your time trying. Just like your website, focus on your intended viewer, only with the profiles, and posts, you have much less space to achieve it, so you have to be even more concise.

Key wording:

Social network pages, do get indexed, just like any web site, and can be found on the search engines. So mind what keywords you use on the profile page and or business page, and make them user friendly and help people find you. The title of the page, you often have little options there, but if you do, use it, with the same clarify of intent as any website page title, make it work for you.

Promote your social page, on your web page.

Let your website viewers know you have social networking pages, and where to find them. ( Unless the networking site has died for useablity, in which case, leave it up, as you still might get a hit or two from it, but sending anyone to it, is not really productive )

"Friends" have to have the potential to be real friends, and therefore, customers:

Everybody hates the ones on the networks, who have upteem 1000 friends ... for the simple reason, there is no way, that you can keep contact with, or even know a thing about, all these people. ( The only ones who are forgiven this mass of "friends" are celebrities )

Your "friends" on the social networks, have to be your target, or are at least, potential targets, so be picky about who you hook up with. Find people who are honestly interested in what you have or can do. Further more, they have to be people you are willing and able, to make personal contacts with. If you are combining both personal social networking and your small business, that's even better. This will take time and effort, as it's a balancing act, but it's worth the investment. Build your contatcts, slowly and carefully.

Once you start, don't stop:

People notice quickly, if you are a flash in the pan, who just popped on to drop a few ads on them, and they never hear from you or anything about you again, and they honestly don't like it. They will not only resent it, given the nature of the social networks, they will leave you nasty comments, and the like, just to show you how much they don't like it. So failure to keep it up, can be detrimental. ( Unless, as noted above, the networking site itself, has died )

Unless you are willing ( and able ) to invest a certain amount of time to the networking, your better off not to do it at all. This can mean having to choose only one or two to belong to, which is fine. It is much better to belong to a few of the major networks and keep up with them, than belong to a dozen minor ones, that never see or hear from you. Unless you have been forced to abandon it, as its popularity, and therefore usability, is no longer worth keeping up.

Use bulletins in moderation:

Send out messages only when you really have something to introduce or offer. People who send along junk mail in vast numbers, are generally considered annoying. So do not Spam your customers with the bulletin boards.

Use the galleries:

Most networks have photo galleries. Use them to promote your products or service. Watermark all images, with your brand name, so that if they are :borrowed: your brand name will go with them.

Offer network only speicals:

Give your "freinds" on the network, speical offers that are for them alone.

Keep your profile PG-13

Such social networks have a lot of underage viewers, who, while they may not be your target, they are out there, and reading your profile. So keep it clean, with nothing in it, that anyone could consider objectionable, always. Even if your business is in the adult industry, do not assume that all readers, are adults. This includes who you are "friends" with. You are known by the company you keep, as people do check out who is on your friends list.

Report abuse:

Your business is now associated with the over all network. So help the network, clean up any flagrant abusers of the system.

Be subtle:

Most social networks, somewhat frown on blanket adverts ( unless they are making a cut of your profits ) so be subtle. Let it be known what you can do, what you are or have to offer, but low key is the ticket. The hard sell is dead.

Follow the rules of the network:

Be sure to follow any rules the network itself requires, with regard to business posts, or links and the like, as most of them, have very detailed terms of service.

Be one of a kind:

If need be, hire someone to make your profile page, one of a kind. Templates are fine, for non professionals, but such copy and paste templates, will not present a business well. Invest as much, if not more time and effort on your profile page, as by and large, on most networks, that one page, is all you have, so make it count.
 


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