Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ramping Up Online Networking

I’ve decided to tackle networking online or “social networking.” I’ve been waiting in the wings for someone to figure it all out and showcase how this rapidly evolving medium can help me and my clients, the small business owner, save time, money, and increase impact. But that hasn’t happened yet so I figured it was time to throw my hat in the ring.

Over the last 18 months I’ve been invited to join many networks and personally have growing networks on Linked In, Biznik, and Plaxo Pulse. My sons use Facebook and MySpace. Others in my network use Naymz and Mamasource. Until recently I had not yet seen clearly how these mediums could impact sales, leads, and partnerships.

It’s taken me a while to come around to the idea that social networking might not be a waste of time. My initial skepticism seemed to be supported when I asked the people in my network who were using online social networking how it was working for them. They were as stumped as I was about how to use it to reach their business goals. Hmmm. Made me think. Is this a good investment of time?

Then I was contacted by people who found me through the network and wanted to sell me something. Oooh. That really didn’t sit well. Each time this happened it confirmed my belief that this whole social networking thing could be handled as poorly as networking in person. As a matter of fact, the only viable application I saw in social networking was for job seekers who were able to make connections that helped them learn more about the companies they were applying to and get introductions to key people within the organization.

However, I am beginning to change my mind. While sharing my online networking frustrations with a colleague, Elge Premeau, The eMarketing Strategist, she said “Kathie, you wouldn’t go to a networking event, stand in the corner of the room the whole time and then complain afterwards about how it didn’t work. So why are you doing it online? You teach people how to strategically network in person so take the same approach online.” My belief is that people do business (online or off) with those they know, like and trust. I am confident the fundamental principles that make for successful face-to-face networking are the same for online social networking.

A few weeks ago, I met the co-founders of Biznik, a social networking site I’ve been participating if for the last six months, and had a lively discussion about the correlations between face-to-face networking and online networking. I believe Biznik is going to be a major player in changing the face of online networking in a highly practical way! Biznik is unique. It’s highly targeted to independent professionals and combines an active online community, article publication, resources, and local face-to-face networking events. Is Biznik for everyone? No. But it has shown me how social networking can effectively about build relationships online.

So, now that I’ve got a grasp on how online social networking can be used as a strategic marketing activity, I’m going to write a brief, highly targeted, ebook on the topic. It will describe how to choose social networking sites, how to create an effective online profile and how to use social networking sites to build relationships with potential clients and strategic partners.I want to include plenty of real world examples which is where I need your help. I’m asking people in my network to share their stories about how they’ve used social networking and what they’ve gotten from the experience. Here’s what I’d like to know:

  • Do you participate in social networking sites? If so, which ones?
  • How much time would you estimate you spend weekly communicating, maintaining, and updating your online networks?
  • What type of successes have you found through your use of online networking?

If you take the time to add your comments below, I’ll send you a complimentary copy of my ebook on social networking when it’s done.