Larry BraunerNing seems to be gaining popularity since restructuring in 2010, and since smoothing some of its rough edges.

Many Ning social networking sites are easier to navigate and operate than those of Facebook or LinkedIn. However, while mastering Ning’s features isn’t difficult, using Ning to network effectively can be.

I’ve been developing my network on Ning, writing about Ning and watching Ning go through changes for several years. Small Business Network is the Ning site I created and run.

Ning Social NetworksHere are 16 tips to help you better understand Ning social networking sites and to use Ning sites to help build your network:

  1. There are Ning social and business networks that cater to nearly every niche. Search the Ning home page and Google to find Ning networks that match your interests.
  2. Join all relevant Ning networks and create a profile on each. Be careful to bookmark the Ning sites you join, so that you can easily find your way back to them.
  3. Don’t worry about joining too many Ning sites. You won’t be active on all of them. All these sites will, however, contribute to your web presence.
  4. In 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking, I stated that “your LinkedIn profile is your resume. Put at least as much effort into creating and perfecting your profile as you would your resume.” I also suggest that you also invest substantial effort to create and perfect your Ning profile.
  5. Save your Ning profile is a text file on your computer desktop, so that you don’t have to recreate it from scratch each time you join a Ning site. You’ll just have to customize it a bit.
  6. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, Ning is an open networking platform. You’re free to reach out to any member with whom you wish to connect, even if you don’t know him or her. However, make sure that your approach is transparent and congenial.
  7. Ning groups tend to have a narrower focus than the overall site, and browsing group membership is a good way to locate the people you most want to meet. Creating your own Ning group is a great idea for networking and branding yourself, but follow-through is essential.
  8. Before inviting a member to connect, greet them and ask a friendly question in a comment on their profile wall to determine if they’re active. Most members of Ning sites are inactive, so don’t waste one of you limited invitations on them. Asking questions also helps establish relationships, and profile commenting also helps create internal links back to your profile, improving your profile’s standing with search engines.
  9. If you run out of invitations, delete pending invitations. Start with the oldest first, and only delete as many as needed at that moment.
  10. Accept invitations from others. Don’t be too fussy. You can’t have too many friends on Ning. I don’t know of any upper limit. Correct me if you know otherwise.
  11. The friends you make on one Ning site will be friends on all the Ning sites you have in common. You often join a Ning site and discover that you already have friends there.
  12. You can broadcast messages to up to 200 Ning friends at one time, but I myself very rarely use this feature. I like to write a blog post or start a discussion and then  share it with all my friends on a site. I personalize the notification with a few additional words using the optional message area. Blog posts and discussions also link internally back to your profile and help with search engines.
  13. Before sharing content with your Ning friends, ask yourself whether the content is truly valuable or whether it just another form of spam. Avoid spamming or face undesirable consequences. Spamming — or even pasting the exact same comment on many members’ profiles — can get you banned from all Ning sites.
  14. Invite your friends to connect with you on other social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Your friendship will survive even if the Ning site disappears or one of you become inactive on the site.
  15. One you’ve formed a relationship with another Ning member, use private messages rather than profile comments to communicate with each other, unless of course, you want your conversation to be displayed to the public.
  16. Invite outside contacts to join your favorite Ning sites, but don’t use Ning invites. Most Ning invites are ignored or end up in your friends’ spam folders. Instead, share good content from Ning on Facebook and other social sites. When people come to view the content, they’ll be presented with the option of joining.

Please join me on my Ning site, Small Business Network.

What Ning networks have you created or do you belong to? What Ning social networking tips can you share with us?

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Larry BraunerSocial networking sites have each a unique protocol and don’t usually provide members with practical how-to advice to help use their sites effectively. They let us figure out the how-tos on our own.

I share in this article my basic LinkedIn how-tos that may shorten your learning curve and save you time and frustration. They are merely suggestions, not rigid guidelines. If you have an idea or advice you find helpful, please share it with us in a comment.

LinkedInHere are ten tips for maximizing your LinkedIn social networking success:

  1. Your LinkedIn profile is your resume. Put at least as much effort into creating and perfecting your profile as you would your resume.
  2. SEO can help you to be findable on LinkedIn, as well as other social networking sites. Employ keywords that are relevant to your work when crafting your profile, so that you and your profile can appear in search results.
  3. LinkedIn permits members to view profiles of other members within three degrees of separation from each other or who share common LinkedIn groups. Increasing your visibility increases your reach.
  4. To increase your vertical reach (in your areas of interest), join every relevant LinkedIn group. To increase your horizontal (i.e. overall) reach, increase your number of LinkedIn connections. I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn!
  5. To increase your number of connections, connect directly to as many other members as you can, especially well connected members. You can send direct connections messages or emails whenever you wish.
  6. Don’t invite people to connect haphazardly, as LinkedIn will restrict you if people you invite complain that they don’t know you (as they sometimes do). Instead, join LinkedIn open networker groups, such as Top Linked, for people who welcome (but don’t necessarily accept) all connection requests. Reach out to fellow group members, and be receptive to members who reach out to you.
  7. Join discussions in groups by posting or commenting when you have something valuable to add, but don’t spam the discussion board or post anything inappropriate.
  8. Tell new connections you’re on Facebook (if you are) when thanking them for connecting. Facebook has made it hard to add friends, so this tactic is useful. (See 3 Key Social Media and Web Marketing Strategies for 2011: Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking.)
  9. Provide your Twitter handle (if you have one) where requested by LinkedIn to appear in your LinkedIn profile.
  10. Keep at it. It takes a very substantial amount of time to build a strong presence on LinkedIn or any of the other social networking sites.

Happy linking!

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Larry BraunerGenerally speaking, a business entity on Facebook needs a Facebook business page, one Facebook business page, no more, no fewer.

Many businesses are trying to reach out on Facebook using only a Facebook personal profile and no Facebook business page, while at the same time, many other businesses are trying to cultivate multiple Facebook business pages. Let’s consider both of these strategies to understand why either is problematic.

No Facebook Business Page

FacebookI presented several reasons for not using a Facebook personal profile in the place of a Facebook business page in 7 Issues to Consider About Doing Business on Facebook.

Here are 10 reasons to use a Facebook business page for business instead of a Facebook personal profile:

  1. Facebook members who wish to follow your business will typically feel less comfortable adding you as friend and opening their private lives to you than merely connecting with your Facebook business page by “liking” it.
  2. In addition, Facebook has created barriers to adding strangers as friends, as I explained in 3 Key Social Media and Web Marketing Strategies for 2011: Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking.
  3. Mixing business and pleasure on Facebook personal profiles is often complicated.
  4. Because of these limitations, Facebook personal profiles will not grow virally, but Facebook business pages might.
  5. Facebook personal profile friends are limited to 5,000, but there is no limit on the number of Facebook business page fans.
  6. Facebook business-page content can be indexed by the search engines, but Facebook personal-profile content cannot. Facebook business pages can make use of search engines and SEO.
  7. There can be multiple Facebook business page administrators, and their identities will be shielded from visitors and fans. This feature offers Facebook business page administrators flexibility and some degree of privacy.
  8. Facebook business pages support applications and tabs. Personal page application tabs have gone away.
  9. Facebook business page administrators can send updates to fans. Some, not all, of the fans will actually read them, but this feature still has value.
  10. Facebook business pages come equipped by Facebook with a set of analytic tools called Facebook Insights.

Multiple Facebook Business Pages

Want more than one Facebook business page for your business? Build and grow your first Facebook business page successfully. Then, if you still want, we can discuss having multiple Facebook business pages together. ;-)

Now please, “like” my Facebook business page, subscribe to my blog and leave me a comment.

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Larry BraunerIt would be useful if you could know which social media sources, social networking sites and search terms were contributing to your newsletter and blog subscriptions.

You can track newsletter and blog subscriptions to a large extent, although not fully, using web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or Clicky, my favorites, and a trick or two I’m going to share with you.

Accurate Subscription Tracking is Impossible

I asserted in Twitter Stats Defy Measurement that “everything defies measurement and tracking.” Why should subscriptions be exceptions? :)

I believe that some subscriptions methods, such as blog subscription via the RSS icon in the Firefox location bar, can not be tracked, since that icon is external to your site, and you can only track your site itself, since tracking relies on script placed internally within the site’s web pages.

Fortunately, the practical researchers that we are, we’ll draw conclusions about newsletter and blog subscription from whatever data we’re able to obtain. We can obtain tracking data for some RSS subscriptions and most web form email subscriptions.

How to Track RSS Subscriptions

The following four steps will help you track your RSS subscriptions:

  1. Use Feedburner to “burn” your blog’s RSS feed.
  2. Post Feedburner RSS icons prominently on your blog, so that visitors will find it easy click on those icons instead of their browser’s RSS icon. There’s no need to be subtle about your RSS icons.
  3. Use off-site link clicks to your Feedburner page to segment your subscribers within your web analytics program.
  4. Study the sources and behavior of that segment of subscribers.

It’s possible that some members of this RSS subscriber segment will not follow through with their subscription or that they were already your subscribers but didn’t remember. It’s not worth losing any sleep over it.

How to Track Web Form Email Subscriptions

59th Birthday Party and Promote-Yourself Event on FacebookThis one should be a piece of cake — speaking of which, Tuesday is my birthday and you’re invited to my social networking 59th birthday party on Facebook that runs from the 11th through the 20th.

The key to tracking web-form email subscriptions is to set the subscription thank-you page to a page on your blog that’s used only for this purpose and to segment your email subscribers as a result of their visiting the thank-you page. Some visitors who submit web form fail to confirm their subscriptions. Don’t let this issue ruffle your feathers either.

You can track visitors who do confirm by using a subscription confirmation welcome page on your blog. However, after their original tracking session has timed out, they can no longer be connected to their original tracking source, so you might not be any better off than simply tracking visits to your thank-you page.

I implement both thank-you and welcome pages as part of my sign-up process, not only so that I can keep my options open, but so that I can also bring the subscriber back to my blog twice instead of once.

Additional Remarks

I use Aweber for my email subscriptions, but you can use almost any good email contact service. I recommend that you not use Feedburner for your email subscribers, because Feedburner will not afford you sufficient control over your email list.

I sometimes use Google Analytics to merge the RSS and email subscribers into a single segment, but it can be interesting to study the two groups separately.

Now, one final question: How do you prefer to subscribe to this blog, by RSS or by email? ;-)

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Larry Brauner3 Key Social Media and Web Marketing Strategies for 2011 discussed the decline of open networking on Facebook, the revival of Ning networks and the continued relevance of websites and SEO in building your web presence.

Here are several more social media marketing ideas for the new year that can be especially helpful for small business marketers and entrepreneurs.

Bigger Long-Term SEO Objectives

GoogleOne of the most serious social media and web marketing mistakes I’ve ever made was choosing Online Social Networking as the name of this blog.

I considered naming my blog Social Networking Sites but decided not to, because social networking sites seemed too competitive a keyword phrase for the newbie that I was. Online social networking is searched for 12K times monthly compared to 250K for social networking sites. 12K per month seemed like more than enough traffic to me at that time.

Online social networking was a “reasonable” keyword term. Since it was much less popular than the often searched-for term social networking sites, I hoped to rank for it relatively quickly. However, in the long run, I believe that social networking sites would’ve brought me both greater and more profitable traffic.

My blog probably wouldn’t have yet hit the #1 spot in the search engines for the search term social networking sites as it has already for online social networking, but it would’ve ranked much higher for social networking sites than the present #32 and might have still placed close to the top for online social networking.

I should have considered long term potential and selected more ambitious keywords, just as I have for Gevril, for whom I’ve chosen tough keyword phrases, such as luxury watches and mens watches.

In month one, Gevril Group received 150 search visits. I’ll let you know what happens in month two.

Ning Network Groups

Ning Social NetworksNing groups function like Facebook groups with a few welcome exceptions:

  • Your potential emailing list is unlimited. You can broadcast to Ning group members even after their count exceeds 5,000.
  • The content of your Ning group can be indexed by Google and other search engines, and the greater your group membership, the greater your authority with the search engines will tend to be.
  • Group activity is displayed in your Ning network’s activity feed and transmitted to Ning group members who elect to follow you.

I’m ready and able to assist any group owner on my new Small Business Network who’s dedicated to building a large and influential Ning group, and the group need not necessarily be business-oriented.

Connecting One-to-One

SkypeYour personal network will be strong and prosper if you focus on networking one-to-one. Speak on the phone or over Skype even one time to each person, and you’ll surely build solid online relationships.

If you’re growing a Facebook page, a Ning group or a Twitter account, individually adding one-to-one connections can amount to a large number over time — and perhaps these connections will even help you make many more.

Hope you’ll find these social media and web marketing strategies useful.

Wishing you a successful year. :-)

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