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.

7 comments:

Elge Premeau said...

I’ve had a profile on LinkedIn for a couple of years but haven’t really gotten anything out of it. It seems more like “something I should do” than something I get value from. I joined Biznik about a month ago and have had a lot more success with it. I posted an article I’d already written called How to Blog without Having a Blog (http://biznik.com/learn/articles/business-networking/how-to-blog-without-having-a-blog) and it did really well. It hasn’t lead to anyone writing me a check (yet) but I was pleased with the results. Here’s what happened:

Direct Results:
42 very nice comments.
About 50 hits to my website
One proposal for a small but exciting project
One request to republish the article in someone’s newsletter
Invited to local Biznik event where I met several people who’d read the article and liked it.
Request from Biznik to speak at conference in Seattle in June.

Indirect Results (and the direct result they came from):
Article linked to by well read blogger which resulted in about 100 hits to my website and 6 newsletter sign ups
About a month ago, I spoke with the owner of an online education company who was interested in having me write an eMarketing course for them. She read the article, contacted me and REALLY wants me to write that eMarketing course.

Coporate Creativity Training said...

I'm listed in several social networking groups. Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook. I am most active in LinkedIn. I've been a member of it for several years. It seems to target professionals and business people. I have used it to connect with people I had lost contact with and have met new people interested in the same biz topics I am. I've also been able to make introductions between contacts in my network through it. I like that feature. I am just starting to make use of its user group feature.

I don't think I use social networking to its full capability and would guess I spend about 1 hour/week working through it. Recently, I've received a lot of invitations to join additional social networking groups. Like any networking activity, I think I need to pick, choose and participate in the ones that best support my biz. But I'm not really sure what criteria to use. I do think I'll have to look into Biznik.

Julie said...

I own a small business of coworking + meeting space called souk. I participate in Linkedin and Biznik, inasmuch as I have time, which isn't a lot. What I do must yield results.

A friend of mine uses Linkedin to survey her network and post jobs, but I believe you have to buy into another level to do that. For me, it's just a rolodex that sits online.

Biznik has proved the most promising of the two. I have had a membership inquiry and compliment via Biznik. We are also hosting their live Portland event in April. Biznik's network is indie professionals and that's my target market so I will spend time there. Perhaps targeted social networks vs. broad may have more relevance for users?

It's important to be clear on why you join a site and what you want out of it and often the point of these sites isn't clear. Joining for joining's sake doesn't help anyone, sinks time and exacerbates password fatigue.

Finally, what's the definition of social networking sites exactly? Honestly, I'm confused by Yelp, Digg, del.icio.us, ma.gnolia. Where and how do they fit?

Linda Smith said...

Kathi,

I'm glad you are coming alongside those of us who don't know what to do with sites such as LinkedIn! Check out the article from Drew with LeftBrainRightBrain Marketing: lbrbmarketing.com

sminer said...

Kathie, I am glad you are discussing this. I have had a profile on LinkedIn, and Naymz for a while. Just recently connected with Mamasource. The most of my experience has come from someone else telling me about particular features, but I really don't have a clue on how to use them effectively. I am interested in other's experiences.
I may spend an hour a week on it.

Nechama said...

I have been on linked-in for a while but I do much better with networking groups that work as a list serve. NWWomensBiznetworks is my favorite this week. I am able to read the posts and then send recommendations when a topic is interesting. This has enabled me to participate, help and meet some interesting people.

I have not learned how to use link-in well.

kaya Singer said...

Kathie
Great article. I belong to all those sites and I think I need a personal assistant just to stay current with it all. I love the internet, and the networking potential for my business is amazing, but I have still not found the most efficient system to get the most benefit. Just keeping up with my own blog is a big job. Kaya
www.awakeningbusiness.com/blog