Larry Brauner

I’ve written quite a few articles about the Ning family of social networking sites focusing primarily on social marketing and business networking concepts.

In this article I address every type of Ning user.

By using Ning sites, not only can you transact business, you can also make new friends, discuss special interests, and promote favorite causes. You can network with people all over the world from the comfort and privacy of your home, any time of day or night.

I cannot cover every possible contingency, so feel free to ask questions below in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Before looking at what you should do on Ning sites, I must explain one thing that you should never do on Ning or on any other social network.

Thou Shalt Not Spam

Last September, I slammed the practice of spamming in How Do You Like Your SPAM? If you’re not sure what spam is, please invest a few minutes to read through that article.

Spamming is something that you should never do on Ning or anywhere else. You’re spamming on Ning if you push unwanted advertising, commercial or otherwise, on other people by using:

  • private or instant messages
  • profile or blog comments
  • forum or discussion posts or comments
  • site, group, event, page or comment sharing
  • something I haven’t dreamed of listing here

Be considerate of your fellow site members at all times. If you want to advertise, use only your page’s profile and blog, and watch for my upcoming piece, Promoting Yourself on Ning.

Uploading Your Photo

When you join your very first Ning site, you need to upload your photo. While you can theoretically skip this step, a picture makes your site page friendlier and more credible.

If for some reason you believe that you cannot use your photo — or a family photo — then find another image to upload in its place. Avoid using the dreaded default image, since it implies a lack of seriousness on your part.

Creating Your Profile

Although volumes could be written on this subject alone, here are ten suggestions to help guide you:

  1. Get clear about who you are and what you represent.
  2. Study other people’s profiles. What do you like about them? Dislike?
  3. Know how you want to portray yourself on each Ning site.
  4. Express yourself in an accurate, friendly and interesting manner.
  5. Write in the first person. Avoid bad grammar, misspellings, overused clichés, exaggeration, distasteful slang, etc. Learn to write well — or find somebody who will help you.
  6. Include links to your relevant websites or blogs.
  7. Fill in the details each site requests as best you can. If the site doesn’t ask for enough, use your page’s Text Box to present additional information and links.
  8. Revise your profile often, as you re-invent yourself or gain clarity.
  9. Ask others for their opinions and listen carefully.
  10. Don’t wait to get started. As Mike Litman taught me: You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.”

Making Connections

Once you have set up your page, you’re ready to invite people to be “friends” and accept friendship offers from other people.

I know that you’re not naive enough to believe that you can make friends with the click of a mouse, so I must explain to you what it means to be friends on Ning.

Please read the following very carefully:

When you make friends on Ning, you are each giving the other explicit permission to communicate directly using private messaging and Ning’s content sharing features.

E-mail messages will inevitably arrive in your inbox. Some will be spam and others not.

Ask yourself whether you’d mind receiving direct messages from a person. If yes, be friends. If not, pass. However, don’t be too cautious, since you always have the option to remove a so-called friend who has turned out to be problematic.

Communicating One-on-One

When you meet a new person offline, you communicate cautiously at first. You make small talk. Gradually you reveal details about yourselves, and a relationship develops. Approach online communication in the same way.

Be genuinely interested and ask questions to give your new friend an opportunity to open up to you. Reciprocate appropriately as you go along.

Use a profile comment or two to get a conversation going, and then switch to private messaging if and when it seems right. Don’t force anything. It’s better to take your time.

Communicating with the Community

In my opinion, the best way to communicate with all members at one time is by writing blog articles within the Ning site.

If you don’t know how to write, you’ll learn. This is a great way to get practice before starting a stand alone blog on Blogger.com or your own hosting account. Your writing will improve as you do more and more of it.

Write about topics that are important to you. Create a desire within your readers to return and read subsequent blogs. If your articles are helpful, the site creator may feature them, and that will help you to gain readers.

In Promoting Yourself on Ning, I’ll teach you how to promote your blog articles.

Inviting Friends

Social networking sites need new members to grow and thrive. All members share the responsibility for bringing in new members.

Use the Invite feature to send a short invitation to people whom you know. In the comments area of the invitation, say briefly why you like the site. If everybody participates in this process, everybody benefits from the new faces on the site.

Now It’s Your Turn

Ask questions below, so that I can clarify or elaborate on any of the points I’ve made in this article — or address any omissions.

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Larry Brauner

Nearly a year has passed since my first Ning article, Ning Social Networking Sites.

Since then online social networking has taken some exciting twists and turns. MySpace has lost luster, while Facebook and Twitter have become social media darlings.

Ning Still Facing Obstacles

Ning seems to be in somewhat of a holding pattern.

There have been some changes here and there, mostly for the better in my opinion, but no exciting breakthroughs. There are new apps, a new Ning central networking site, and new flexibility, but site creators and users still have their reservations.

As mentioned in Ning Social Network Controversy, the Ning management has been criticized for its policies and its tactics and, as too many people are aware, Ning sites haven’t been immune to spamming by both Ning members and by intruders.

My Ning sites now all require membership pre-approval, since I know of no better way to deal with persistent outsider spamming.

What is Right with Ning

Despite any shortcomings, I still feel as when I wrote about the Ning controversy, that Ning truly epitomizes Web 2.0. Ning sites are communities of people, and Ning is a community of community sites.

I’ve certainly written a good deal about social media list building including both List Building Paradigm Shift and List Building Using Ning Social Networks. Nevertheless communities are the essence of social media, not lists, and social marketing must therefore favor community building over list building.

Fortunately Ning can be used to build either communities or lists. There are creative ways to build communities within Facebook and Twitter, but Ning networks were designed expressly for that purpose and afford marketers a variety of useful tools and a degree of social media ownership.

Ning Still My Favorite Networks

I still use Ning social networking sites more than all others. I like them for the reasons cited above and for the many other reasons I’ve discussed in previous Ning related articles.

I have so far created four Ning sites of my own and hope to create more in the future:

  • Let’s Follow Each Other - This is a fun networking site for Twitter folk who want to gain followers, share ideas, promote themselves and network with each other.
  • Beyond Business Coaching - This is a site for entrepreneurs and marketing professionals who are interested in social media, customer acquisition, customer retention and CRM.
  • Online Kosher Networking - This is a niche site for orthodox affiliated members of the Jewish faith to network and share their ideas about Jewish values, Israel, religious observance, charities, politics, jobs, business, etc.
  • Outside the Box - If you enjoy my blog, but you don’t use Twitter, and you aren’t necessarily business oriented, this may be the right site for us to connect and network together.

In all fairness, I must tell you that Ning has competitors such as SocialGO, GROU.PS and others but admit that I haven’t yet evaluated them. If you have tried other social network platforms, I invite you to share your experiences with them.

To learn more about using Ning, please read Introduction to Using Ning Sites.

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Larry Brauner

Social media sites are rapidly altering the web marketing landscape. Now you can use social media to drive targeted traffic to your websites.

You may be trying to determine whether social media is a viable alternative to search engine optimization.

After all, search engine optimization requires extensive keyword research and ongoing content development to achieve top search engine rankings. Is it possible that social media sites might provide a more expedient web marketing solution?

I’ve found in my experience that social networking sites and other social media can generate a modest level of response much more quickly than search engine optimization initiatives. So why not focus exclusively on social marketing?

Social Media AND Search Engine Optimization

Please read The Long Tail and Social Media, and you’ll start to appreciate the extent to which search engine optimization can enhance social media.

Not only does search engine optimization help you promote your website, it also helps you promote your social media content. Your website and your social media together constitute your web presence, and search engine optimization helps you to market your overall web presence.

Interestingly, the converse is also true.

Social media helps your search engine optimization efforts. It adds to the links back to your website generating both referral traffic and credibility with the various search engines.

They key is to coordinate your social media and search engine optimization, creating the maximum synergy between the two through an integrated approach.

The New Online Marketing Professional

It’s no longer enough for online marketing pros to be fluent in search engine optimization technique. They must also fully understand social media sites and their role in building both your online presence and the desired backlinks to your website.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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Larry Brauner

A rose by another name might smell as sweet, but could a horrifically long string of gobbledygook ever smell as sweet as facebook.com/larrybrauner?

Not by any stretch of the imagination.

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook started giving out real user names yesterday morning just past the stroke of midnight. To claim yours, go to facebook.com/username.

However if you have a Facebook business page with fewer than 1,000 fans and want to name it, you’ll have to wait. The biggies have first dibs.

My Facebook business page link is still:

facebook.com/pages/Larry-Brauner/80577106448

I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and other social networking sites to network one-on-one with people, and a simple Facebook app merges my Twitter updates directly into my Facebook feed. That’s synergy!

Grab Your Name and Make New Facebook Friends

Hurry and get your new Facebook user name. Then leave a comment below with your main reasons for using Facebook and your new Facebook link, so that we can add you as a Facebook friend.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry BraunerCould it be that your website looks nice but fails to help you meet your web marketing objectives? Too often that is the case.

Lots of effort and expense went into building your site, but your return on investment is marginal or non-existent.

Here are possible reasons why your website isn’t generating leads or sales and some ideas that might help you correct the problems.

Too Little Website Traffic

Perhaps you lack an effective strategy for driving visitors to your site.

You set up your storefront but didn’t tell potential customers that you were in business, a mistake I often see both online and off.

Lack of traffic leads to lack of exposure for you and your offer or message.

Don’t assume that traffic will somehow find its way to you through word-of-mouth, search engines or otherwise. It rarely happens that way.

Generate exposure for your website offline via print advertising, direct mail, radio, etc. and online using social media, search engine marketing, search engine optimization and so forth.

Think big. You can dominate your niche, so don’t settle for less.

The Wrong Website Traffic

You have website traffic, but either your website traffic is not targeted or it’s poorly targeted, the result of using bad copy, selecting the wrong media, or choosing the wrong keywords.

For greater and more targeted website traffic, employ a good mix of research, analysis and experimentation.

Direct marketers have been using this approach offline since before you and I were born, and it works like a charm online as well.

Insufficient Stickiness

You have plenty of visitors, but they leave your website too soon.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you targeting the right website traffic?
  • Are your branding and message clear?
  • Are your pages too cluttered, or do you give your visitor too many choices?
  • Is your font hard to read? Try to avoid white on black in all your media, since it slows down your reader.
  • Is important content “above the fold?” Can visitors see your most important content without scrolling down?
  • Is your content up-to-date, relevant and interesting?
  • Do you use social techniques on your website to engage your visitors?

Poor Conversion

You have plenty of visitors who stick around but nothing happens.

Here are more questions to ponder:

  • Do you have a conversion strategy?
  • Does each of your pages have a call to action?
  • If not ready to buy, can your visitor join, opt-in to or subscribe to your site?

If you don’t have a lead capture mechanism and follow-up strategy, you’re leaving lots of money on the table.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web.

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