Larry Brauner

In Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization, worth a read, I discussed the synergy between social media and search engine optimization.

Today, thanks to heated competition between Facebook and Google, the connection between social media and SEO may become much tighter than a mere relationship of loose synergy.

A More Natural Form of Search

According to the Wired.com article which I referenced in Most Popular Social Networking Sites for Business, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisions a more personalized, humanized Web, where our network of friends, colleagues, peers, and family is our primary source of information, just as it is offline.”

In other words, the endorsements of both web pages and their authors by people in our personal networks will influence the outcomes of online searches we perform as much as or more than the current system which analyzes external links to determine a site’s authority and relevance.

New Role of Social Media in SEO

Facebook intends to leverage the vast amount of member data stored in its global network to facilitate this type of search.

Facebook is adding tons of new data by the second through its site, as well as via its Facebook Connect API that opens a window into a growing number of other sites such as Digg.com.

Google is pursuing initiatives to develop its own proprietary data through Google Friend Connect and the anticipated releases of Google Wave and Google Chrome OS.

Furthermore, all search providers can mine public web data to monitor additional social media buzz about web pages and their authors.

Let’s consider how big this SEO paradigm shift will be.

Social Media Presence

In the new SEO, your online reputation is an integral part of your overall web presence and influences your search results. Social media enables you to nurture the relationships and shape the opinions that underlie your online reputation and social capital.

So important is social capital today that new products and services such as Sumbaa, by Paden Noble Consulting and Morpholytics, LLC, are emerging to meet a fast-growing need in the marketplace.

Webmasters work to build external links to their company’s web pages. Savvy companies are already beginning to dedicate additional staff to build and manage social capital as well.

High Cost of Complacency

Companies that neglect their social media presence will suffer in several ways:

  • They’ll have no influence over their online reputation.
  • Their customers will view them as backward.
  • They won’t receive traffic from social media sites.
  • They’ll receive less search engine traffic too.

Be Proactive

Build your social media presence right away. Pay special attention to Facebook and Google. I intend to write much more about Facebook and Google in future articles.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, please take a minute to join my Facebook and Google networks using the widgets on my right sidebar.

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Larry BraunerMy list of social and business networking sites is updated when online social networking changes occur. If I omitted sites you feel should be included, please leave a comment.

This article about top social and business networking sites is sponsored by the Small Business Network, a new social website for open business networking and lifetime business learning.

Social Networking Sites Becoming the Internet

The rapid growth of Facebook and Twitter the past several years has fueled much excitement and speculation among the public and within the business world.

Alexa ranks the world’s most popular websites. Eight social networking and business networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, hi5, Ning and Xing are ranked very highly overall among the world’s websites.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Ning networks are the most popular social networks with wide business appeal. From a business point of view, MySpace has become a niche site for the music industry.

Each social networking site is different. Choose a social network according to your individual or business networking objectives, as well as your personal style. Don’t base your choice solely upon site popularity, for each social networking site has a style and features that differentiate it from other social networking sites and contribute to its success.

Facebook

Read the Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out, and you’ll  begin to appreciate ambitious scope of Facebook’s controversial plans, plans that have already started unfolding before our eyes.

The Facebook article has several important implications:

  • If Facebook succeeds, even partially, our influence and the content we post on Facebook will affect Facebook search results. In other words, we can to some extent impact the outcome of Facebook searches.
  • Facebook will evolve to compete both with Google and with other social networking sites. Facebook will implement powerful new features that enhance our networking experience.
  • To profit from an evolving Facebook, we must master Facebook now and start building our influence on the site.

I like the realness of Facebook. Most members use their actual names, provide factual information about themselves, and share interesting pictures, videos, and other content.

I also like the ease with which I can connect with my Facebook friends with a private message or a comment on their wall.

We’ve been discussing spam a lot lately. There’s a 5,000 friend limit on Facebook, so friend slots are precious. If a “friend” spams me, I remove him or her, unless of course it’s somebody I know from outside Facebook, in which case he or she gets an earful about spamming.

Twitter

Some people believe that Twitter is merely a fad. Not I. However, I’m not as confident in the future of Twitter as I am in the future of Facebook or LinkedIn.

For now, Twitter is growing, and it’s very useful if it’s used properly. I have created more traffic using Twitter than with all my other social networking sites and social media sites combined.

The ability to connect with and reach large groups of people makes Twitter attractive from a marketing perspective. I use a simple yet powerful tool that helps me connect with people and manage my profiles and those of my clients.

If you can reach your target market on Twitter and keep their interest, you will benefit enormously.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great business social networking site that is under new management.

LinkedIn’s potential lies in it’s many diverse and successful groups and their ongoing discussions. What better way to network than to participate in the discussions of groups that attract the types of people you want to meet?

You can also build up a very large network on LinkedIn which will enable you to communicate directly with the people you want without having to get past the usual gatekeepers. Members will also be able to search for and find you.

Ning Networks

I’ve written much recently about Ning networks. Many Ning social networking sites appeal to narrow niches, but others have broader appeal. Small Business Network is a new Ning network with a wide appeal.

I appreciate most a Ning network feature that is very controversial, the ability to share content with all Ning friends on a particular Ning network. I can write a blog post and share it easily with hundreds of friends.

Popularity of Social Networking Sites Isn’t Everything

While these are the most popular social networking sites, popularity isn’t everything. Less popular sites may offer you precisely the audience or the features you want. See also my list of social networking sites article from 2008 and my recent review of an excellent business networking book, The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel.

Please subscribe and join me on Facebook.

Most Popular Social and Business Networking Sites was most recently updated 28-Sep-2010 by Larry Brauner.

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Larry Brauner

I’ve written about the problem of spam both offline and online at social networking sites in How Do You Like Your SPAM? and Why Do People SPAM?

With this article, I’m delivering on the promise I made last week to discuss marketing channels you can use to promote yourself or your business — without ever resorting to spam.

Legitimate promotion alternatives fall primarily into these basic categories:

  1. Advertising - Expect to pay — unless you prefer getting marginal results, running around town, lurking in parking lots and posing for security cameras, all while schlepping around stacks of flyers and carefully avoiding people you know. Online, free advertising attracts people without money and spammers, although you may get good results with Craigslist. Offline advertising includes newspapers, magazines, direct mail, radio, television, offline directory listings and billboards. Online advertising includes Pay Per Click, e-zines and online directory listings. I do not recommend using banner ads. Advertising ROI will depend on the net lifetime value of each acquisition or conversion and the cost of each acquisition.
  2. Press Releases - If your business is newsworthy, or if you can create a newsworthy event, then you may be able to get some free exposure. Your press release needs to be well written in a suitable format and distributed either offline, online or both.
  3. Speaking and Contributing Articles - It is an accepted practice to establish your reputation and generate leads by speaking at meetings or contributing articles to journals. Don’t expect to get paid anything until you become a recognized expert in your field.
  4. Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures - A business or list owner promotes your offer to his or her clients or e-mail list based on an agreement through which you both stand to gain. It’s not uncommon to give a joint venture partner all the profit from an initial product offering in exchange for helping you to add new contacts to your list.
  5. E-Mailing Your List - You can send relevant commercial messages to subscribers who previously opted into your database. Try to avoid using purchased lists. If you must, be sure you know with certainty that the subscribers agreed to receive offers from third parties. Be genuinely helpful and careful not to abuse your list.
  6. Search Engine Optimization - You’ll need a web site, and unless you’re an SEO maven, you’ll have to pay for SEO services. There’s more to doing effective search engine optimization than most people realize. However, SEO will be worth the trouble if it gets you ranked high up in the free organic search engine results that most searchers look at and care about.
  7. Social Media - Social marketing is similar in philosophy to speaking and article contribution mentioned above. You share online videos and articles to educate, inform and entertain people, and to build a relationship with them. If they want your product or service, they’ll be inclined to buy it from you, since they know you, and you’ve earned their respect. Your blog on a social networking site, a blogging community such as Blogger.com, or you own hosting, are good places to share your content. For ideal results, create and post new original content on a regular basis. If your content is geared toward your target market, then you’ll attract qualified customers to you and your site.
  8. Business and Social Networking - Networking is meeting new people and developing relationships with them. You can network at your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. I can go to Network Plus, a group in my area founded by Ted Fattoross. Online social networking is more convenient. You network from your computer at any of thousands of social networking sites. My favorites are Ning and Facebook. You build relationships by asking questions and getting to know people. Keep in mind that spamming doesn’t work at all, and exchanging business cards is no more than a cordial first step in starting a relationship.

I like the web marketing channels: my e-mail list, search engine optimization, social marketing and business networking. I coordinate them to benefit from the synergies between them.

Now it’s your turn.

Which methods do you use? Which ones are you hoping to use in the future? What challenges do you foresee?

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Larry Brauner

When I read comments on What is Wrong with Ning and other articles, a recurring theme is that spamming on Ning and on other social networking sites has become a major nuisance.

I often speculate about why people spam — regular well-meaning people like you and me, not the offshore criminal type. What are they thinking? Why do they spam?

Ignorance a Big Factor

While there are many possible reasons, an eye opening experience last week convinced me that ignorance is definitely a factor.

A newcomer to the Internet is repeatedly exposed to the much too prevalent practice of spamming and easily concludes that it’s the way business is transacted. From then on, it’s monkey see, monkey do.

It matters little whether or not they’ve heard that spam is bad, since they don’t know what spam is anyway. Therefore, they don’t realize that sending unsolicited commercial messages or advertising on other people’s pages is spam. To them it’s just advertising, and advertising is good, not bad.

Now let me tell you about what happened last week.

SPAM on My Ning Site

I received spam from a member of my Beyond Business Coaching Ning network, a private message sent to me and other “friends” on the site:

Tool for any business that will put money into your pocket. Lead generation software which automatically extracts leads and traffic from other targeted websites and systematically does the selling for you: http://www.—-.com/?ID=—-

Not only is this message spammy, it’s hypey and a little scary too.

I replied to the sender and to the other message recipients:

The message you sent is a violation of the terms of service you agreed upon when joining, which prohibits spam. Please refer to these two articles about spam:

Introduction to Using Ning Sites
How Do You Like Your SPAM?

I request that you use a more compliant marketing approach.

This should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t.

I Can’t Believe It’s SPAM

I received a call from a woman I had once-upon-a-time banned from my site and had later reinstated. She had received a copy of my reply quoted above, and she was angry enough to pick up the phone and ring me.

She felt that my rules were too restrictive and unfair. Here her friend was trying to help by sending out useful information, and I was accusing her of spamming. How could I?

I asked her what she considered spam. She said that spam was a message with banner ads or images. She wouldn’t believe that her friend’s message was in fact spam.

There was a difference of opinion, but I tried to be as nice as possible. I didn’t ban anybody, but I did take the liberty of deleting some spammy profile comments that my caller had recently made on several members’ pages.

I naively assumed that this would be the end of the story, but again of course, it wasn’t.

Spillover onto Facebook

A couple of days later I was promoting my Beyond Business Coaching network on my Facebook profile, and the controversy resurfaced, this time taking on a new dimension, our freedom of speech.

Here’s how it started:

Do not join this group unless you like being restricted to what and how you say things. The rules and restrictions are irrational and don’t allow freedom of speech.

Freedom of expression and ideas are not the same as spam!

The comments went back and forth, but this was the essence of my reply:

I’m sorry to say that while there is freedom of expression and ideas in the US, that freedom DOES have limitations.

For example, what would happen if you planted election campaign signs on all the lawns in your neighborhood or painted your ideas on the walls of the Empire State Building?

Fortunately, several people came and supported me.

Stacey Chadwell wrote:

This is an impressive professional site with superb information about social media and marketing. I have been a member for some time and highly recommend it.

I am sorry you feel this way. I’ve written on a few of Larry’s sites without issue. He has always been fair and professional even when dealing with members who spam the rest of us. I applaud him for doing his best to protect his members from spammers.

Jim Canto, creator of mexXcentral Community wrote:

The best part about the Internet these days is the number of free services out there including at least one where you can create your own social network for anything… AND.. you get to make the rules. So, if you feel “slighted” by someone’s rules.. just remember, it’s their house and their rules, same as it will be when we join a community created by you. You make the rules and we the members see if we can live with them.

I have a community of my own,  and I can assure you, it has its restrictions. Why? Because it has a direction and a purpose. To keep it on track, I must make sure I’ve laid the track down, i.e.the rules.

If you want to build your own community, Ning.com is free.

Luc Despres wrote:

I’m a member of Larry’s social network and I REALLY appreciate his rules on spamming.

What next? This can’t be the end of the story.

Better Education

See my article, 8 Great Choices for SPAM Free Promotion, which identifies methods of promotion on Ning and other social networking sites that work without resorting to spam.

To the extent that ignorance contributes to spam, better education might provide some relief.

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