Larry BraunerEven people who don’t go online and don’t understand social networking have heard of MySpace or Facebook, names that might conjure up fears of predators or identity theft.

However, that’s not my point.

My point is that MySpace and Facebook are so much talked about that they have pretty much become household names, and serious business networkers have or ought to have a presence at MySpace, Facebook and Linked In — and at other major social networking sites.

Many of the important online networking sites are listed for your convenience:

There are also industry specific sites. For example if your business is real estate related, consider joining ActiveRain Real Estate Network and Wanna Network, if you don’t already belong.

To find business networking sites specific to any industry, try plugging the industry name and the words “networking sites” into your favorite search engine.

But wait, the story doesn’t end here.

Smaller and newer business networking sites also deserve to be included in your online portfolio. After all, less can be more.

When Diane Hochman Zigs, I Zag

My Private ClassroomDiane Hochman, the founder and director of My Private Classroom for Marketers, often instructs, “Don’t Follow the Flock”. When others are zigging, you zag.

Diane is a Web 2.0 social media rock star. Many people follow her every move. They go where she goes. They do what she does. They zig when she zigs, and they zag when she zags.

People like Diane Hochman and Mike Dillard have their own flocks. Since I don’t want to follow the flock, nor live in somebody’s shadow, when Diane and Mike zig, I zag.

When they’re hanging at Facebook and Twitter, I’m chillin’ at one of the newer smaller sites such as Sta.rtUp.biz, a site that caters to small business entrepreneurs, or Natural Networkers, a social networking site for proponents of attraction marketing.

I might also be list building at Direct Matches or schmoozing at Yuwie, since they are not.

I think you get the general idea. It fits in with my online social networking strategy and my personal branding strategy. It’s common sense. I have plenty of room to maneuver.

You too might be best off charting a different course than your competition or industry leaders.

Choosing Business Networking Sites

There are many possible criteria for choosing business sites. However, at the end of the day it’s largely a matter of trial and error.

Nevertheless, let me share a few of my considerations with you. Perhaps I’ll share more in a future blog post.

Some social networking sites are funded by membership fees, some by advertising, and some by a combination of the two. I mainly prefer advertising supported sites. I’m not typically reaching out to a very elite crowd.

I do admit, I was a paid Executive Member at Direct Matches for three years. I highly valued the package of services they provided, and I appreciated Bill Weber’s personal touch. You can join Direct Matches for free.

I don’t pay to use any social networking sites at the present time. All the networking sites I use are either ad supported or offer free memberships that I find suitable.

Some networking sites make it easier to connect than others. I like to reach out to a large audience and prefer sites that make it easy for me to do that.

I like to be able to browse and add friends or contacts by demographic characteristics or by geographic location. When sites offer that option, it’s great. When they don’t, I look to a site’s groups or clubs to find people in my target market.

I recommend that you explore Ning social networking sites. While they do not support demographic browsing, but they are nevetheless very useful for business networking.

Short Lived Networking Feature

Some new social networking sites let me send mail to all my contacts or to all members of groups to which I belong. I love this capability and use it effectively without abusing or spamming.

I like to let lots of people know about my new blog posts. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d send links to useful information and thereby build my relationship with fellow members.

Unfortunately, as a networking site grows, spammers inevitably move in and ruin it for everybody. It’s impossible to keep a step ahead of them, so all sites eventually limit or eliminate this wonderful feature.

Don’t Let Spammers Ruin Your Day

I don’t like spammers and wish they’d stick with safelists or classified ads, but I don’t let them ruin my day, nor do I let them dissuade me from using any particular social networking site.

If I can cope with tailgaters and drivers who cut me off on the highway, I can surely cope with spammers.

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Larry Brauner

How I Use Social Networking Sites

I wouldn’t start a blog called Online Social Networking if I didn’t like social networking sites.

Let’s look at some of the ways that I use social networking sites to meet my business networking objectives.

Casting a Wide Net

I join a wide range of social networking sites. I know that even if I will not be active at a particular social site, the profile I set up there will add to my online presence. So if I like the site, I’ll become part of the community. If I don’t, there’s no harm. My profile will remain there as long as the site continues to operate.

When you Google me, you’ll find page after page of results that are me. What happens when people Google you?

Joining a bunch of social networking sites should jump start your web presence. It’ll give you some Google juice. Why not join some of my favorite social networking sites featured on my blog’s sidebar? As a plus, in most cases we’ll automatically be connected as “friends”.

Building Large Targeted Lists

When I like a social networking site, I settle in and become part of the community.

A winning strategy on nearly all social networking sites is to build a large targeted list of friends or contacts, generally the larger the better. Thousands are better than hundreds.

For some sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Yuwie there are friend adders, but I don’t like to use them. I prefer the personal touch, and I don’t want to risk losing my profile for suspected spamming. I spend a modest amount of time each day requesting new friends on each of my favorite social networking sites.

There are two ways that I target my requests.

On sites that allow profile browsing by specific demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, marital status, and parental status, I browse to find people to add.

On sites that have groups or clubs I browse the groups that are likely to attract the people I’m looking for.

I tend to accept nearly all add requests from others. I reject blatant spammers, men masquerading as women in order to attract favorable attention, and crazies.

Networking and Attraction Marketing

Social networking sites are meant for online social networking and not for advertising or spamming. They’re a great place to get to know people. You get to know people by asking them questions.

Please visit or revisit my earlier post, Social Networking vs. Advertising, for a full explanation of this absolutely crucial concept.

Social networking sites are also great from attraction marketing. Be the type of person you want to attract, and that person will be attracted to you.

Videos of you presenting useful information or explaining an important idea, not making a sales pitch, can showcase you as the knowledgeable leader you are.

Blogging is a big part of my branding strategy, so when I network online, I invite people to visit my blog, read, comment and register or subscribe. And many do.

I invite people I like on one social networking site to connect with me on another site. I don’t want to lose track of them if the first site closes down or if one of us happens to have his or her profile deleted. And yes, many do… connect that is.

At Direct Matches, I invite people to visit my profile page where I have a subscription form, and people can sign up for my training newsletter. And again, many do.

Every time people go along with my request, they’re opting in another time to our relationship. It’s sort of like dating.

Branding Yourself

Social networking sites, video sites and blogs are great for personal branding. In fact, your whole online presence can serve as a branding mechanism.

Craft your personal branding strategy and develop a web presence that is consistent with your strategy.

Being Consistent and Following Through

Possibly the most important online social networking strategy is to be consistent and follow through, not to expect instant results.

First you need to build your list, and then you need to gain credibility with the people on it.

When I’ve tried to push things, people sensed it. When I’ve been patient, people have often come to me, and what could be better than that?

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Larry Brauner

I cannot be everything to everybody.

I know I can’t.

I realized that a long time ago. I’ve learned to choose who I want to be to the people who matter most to me.

Business Analysis Example

I’m a business analyst. There are lots of business analysts in the world, but how many of them specialize in marketing and customer analysis like I do? Very few indeed.

And how many rely as heavily on intuition and instinct as I do? Even fewer.

Looking for somebody to do your P&L analyses? Not me. Go talk to a finance type. There are tons of them with MBA degrees waiting to hear from you.

Want to assess a takeover target? Again, not me. Go find somebody who’s into merger and acquisitions to help.

Need to track your marketing or determine how much your customers are worth? Now that is me. Give me a call, and I’ll talk your head off for hours about customer acquisition and customer retention, because that’s definitely my thing.

Network Marketing Example

I admit it. I’m also a network marketer.

I have lots of expertise in online social networking at social networking sites, blog marketing and search engine optimization. I was networking online way before it was cool, and I’m continuously sharpening my blogging and SEO skills.

Do I know the three foot rule? Of course I do, but so does everybody else in the network marketing business.

Can I make a list of family, friends and acquaintances? You bet I can — I’ve done it more than once — but is there one successful networker who can’t?

On the other hand, how many network marketers are Internet savvy? How many of them prospect and network online and enjoy it as I do?

Breaking Away from the Pack

I like to learn from teachers such as Diane Hochman and Mike Dillard, because they too have broken away from the pack. As Diane often says, “When people are zigging, you have to zag.” She’s a lady I want to get to know much better. That’s a big reason why I joined My Private Classroom.

By the way, if you would like to develop strong social networking, social marketing and personal branding skills, read My Private Classroom Opens to Public.

Blogging Example

A reader recently complained that my articles were neither timely nor did they provide information she couldn’t have found elsewhere online.

I basically told her that intelligent and thought-provoking were more important to me than timely. Here too I’ve chosen a focus that works for me.

My Personal Brand Management Approach

The point of this post is that I’ve narrowed my focus, so that I could escape the crowds and stand out more readily. I’ve defined my market, so that I can dominate it.

I prefer to be a leader in my carefully selected fields rather than an also-ran in larger more broadly defined competitive categories.

Avis might have been #2 in the car rental industry, but when they said, “we try harder”, they re-positioned themselves as #1 in car rental customer service.

Redefine Your Market

Do you sell mortgages? Travel? Nutritional products?

Here’s some food for thought. How can you position yourself so that people will see you and think of you as a leader in your market and remember you when they are ready to buy?

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This post is somewhat longer than usual. Sorry for that, but I put a lot of work into it. I hope you like it.

Last Wednesday during my regular bi-weekly business mentoring tele-conference I revealed several powerful business success secrets.

While I was specifically addressing entrepreneurs, small business owners and sales professionals, these principles apply to all people and to all areas of our lives, not only business success.

Have you noticed? The year 2008 is half over.

Near the end of 2007 I posted Personal Development: 10 Simple Success Strategies to “help turbo charge your personal development in the New Year”. This may be worth re-reading if some of your goals and objectives have lost much of their earlier inertia.

Commitment

What are you committed to?

Mike Hernacki in The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want wrote:

“In order to accomplish something, you must know what you want and be willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish it.”

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? However, it is your intention and commitment that set The Law of Attraction into motion on your behalf.

Want proof?

Reflect back on your most important accomplishments, such as raising a child, getting a college degree, running a marathon, starting a business, or developing an Internet presence, and you’ll agree that your commitment to your success was absolute.

It wasn’t that you felt obligated. Rather you felt that the goal was extremely important to you, and that you would deal with any obstacle that might arise — without knowing in advance exactly what would be demanded of you on your way to success.

Without total commitment The Law of Attraction would have probably delivered an obstacle that you would not have been willing to handle, and you would have failed.

This success secret is so important that I’ve read Mike Hernacki’s timeless book about a dozen times over the past decade.

Acquiring New Skills

I am commited to ongoing personal development and acquisition of new knowledge and skills. I read mind expanding books, blogs and e-books.

Your objective may require the mastery of new skills – or it may not. Your willingness to do what it takes is what really matters. If new skills are required, then you must be ready and willing to learn them.

Working Hard

You may be required to apply a great amount of effort. When I wanted to run the New York Marathon in 1984, strenuous preparation was absolutely necessary. In 1985 that was still true but to a lesser extent, since I had maintained a high level of fitness in the interim.

Tenacity and Persistence

Let’s bring this home.

You want to develop a presence at one of your favorite social networking sites – or you want to write a blog – or you want to build an Internet presence. These objectives usually require a high degree of tenacity.

So often people abandon online social networking, blogging or social media optimization without realizing their objectives. They weren’t willing to persist. Perhaps their belief system was weak.

I have been social networking online for many years. I have continuously posted to this blog for nearly eight months.

Why?

I know what I want, and I’m willing to persist until I achieve it.

Belief

As I stated in Personal Development: The Law of Belief, “Our motivation and how we act is determined by our underlying beliefs.

“If we don’t believe that something is possible, we won’t even try to make it happen. Please listen to a conference call I recorded on 8/22/07 that illustrates this concept.”

A healthy belief system is critical to success in business and life.

Treat Your Business Like a Business

Production

Showing up counts for something, but it doesn’t count for enough.

Success in business and life depends on producing value either directly or indirectly through people you influence.

If you have a job and don’t produce, you won’t get very far, and sooner or later you won’t have a job.

If you have a business and don’t produce, you won’t have money in the bank.

If you don’t come through for people, you won’t have their friendship.

You must make a positive contribution in order to be successful.

One way to ensure that you’re productive is to set daily or weekly goals or benchmarks.

For example, let’s suppose you’re in sales. You need to make six product sales per month to meet your business objectives. In order to make six sales, you need to make 15 presentations. To get 15 appointments, you’ll need to speak to 60 people.

You work about 20 days per month. On average you will have to speak to three people per day in order to speak to 60 per month.

Your benchmark or goal becomes three a day. If you focus on 3+ per day with consistency, you will likely make your six product sales per month.

You’ve succeeded at breaking down your abstract monthly goal into concrete daily actions.

Diversification

Big corporations employ a wide variety of media and messages to bring their product to market. They advertise on television, radio, in print and through direct mail. They experiment with many versions of their ad copy.

You cannot do everything a giant company can do, but why not learn from their example?

If you use half a dozen methods to reach out to your potential clients, you’ll enjoy these benefits:

  • You’ll achieve success with some approaches, even if others fail.
  • You’ll attract a wider variety of clients than using a single method.
  • You’ll be able to see which methods perform better relative to each other, so that you can refine your marketing plan.
  • You’ll lower your overall risk through diversification.

Here are some of my favorite marketing channels:

Over time you’ll develop your own favorite marketing channels if you haven’t already done so.

Tracking and Analysis

If you want to make informed business decisions, you must track your results and analyze your data. If you can’t do it yourself, then you must get an expert to do it for you or show you how to do it.

Tracking and analysis are not something optional.

Let me ask you, would you even consider driving your car with your eyes shut?

You can’t afford to run your business with your eyes shut or even partially covered.

Cost per Acquisition

One of the most basic marketing measurements is cost per acquisition, the amount that you’re spending on average to complete a sale using each marketing method. Simply put, it’s the total spend divided by the total number of sales.

It is important to consider your staff costs including your own time, not just the out-of-pocket expenditures for design and media.

Cost per acquisition is an excellent way to compare marketing channels, but there is one very important caveat. Customers from one marketing channel may be more valuable than from another. Therefore marketers must take into account customer long term value, the other side of the equation.

Customer Long Term Value

Customer long term value can be difficult to calculate, but it is generally approximated as the income you expect to earn from a customer over a 12 to 24 month period. If your business is on the risky side, lean towards 12 months. If it is very stable, then 24 months may be appropriate.

To be successful, cost per acquisition cannot exceed customer long term value. It ought to be less.

Trend Data

You can also track your performance or the performance of your staff. Trending performance data and marketing data over time will help you see the bigger picture.

Masterminding and Mentoring

As stated in my post Even Mentors Need Mentors, “I learn from reading many books, e-books and blogs, and from speaking frequently with friends and mentors. Having mentors has greatly shortened my learning curve.”

Masterminding with your peers and seeking out mentors will help you as much or more than any other single strategy mentioned in this article.

Please feel free to comment and share those strategies that have made the biggest difference in your business and personal endeavors.

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Or is it?

Your plate is very full. Don’t get me wrong. I understand. I really do.

You wonder how you could possibly fit blogging into your hectic schedule. You also wonder whether you have the wherewithal to adequately research and write articles week after week, something that you believe good bloggers ought to do.

Before addressing these issues, let’s take a step back and discuss a scenario that you’re familiar with if you engage in business networking at your local small business association, chamber of commerce or business networking group.

Business Networking Model

At a business networking meeting, you meet several people you feel you’d like to get to know.

Business Networking MeetingYou exchange business cards, and being a sharp networker, you resolve to get in touch with these new contacts as quickly as possible once you return to your office. You know very well that if you want to get something going, you’ll have to be the one to take the first step.

Unfortunately most people simply won’t follow up. They’ll hope that you’ll be sufficiently impressed with them and their business card, brochure or website to pick up the phone and call them to get the ball rolling.

You’re not as impressed as they would like, but you do understand business networking and human nature, so you take the initiative and give them a ring.

Your phone converation goes well. You ask enough questions to build rapport and to identify at least one business problem they have for which you should be able to provide a solution.

You sense that it’s too early in the relationship to try and sell them your idea. Instead you’ll maintain contact with them to build mutual trust and respect in accordance with the First Law of building relationships: Nobody cares what you say until they know that you care.

At this point what do the textbooks tell you to do?

They say that you should call periodically and look for newspaper and magazine clippings to send — along with a personal note of course.

Suppose that you have a hundred good contacts, and suppose also that you want to mail and speak to each one about every two months. That’s about eleven calls and the same number of news clippings per week or about two of each per day.

Even if you’re a sociable person, that’s going to be a hard schedule to stick with over a long period of time. You would have to be a master networker to make such a scheme work for you.

Blog Marketing to the Rescue

Fortunately blog marketing comes to your aid.

You invite your contacts to visit your blog, and ask permission to register them as a subscriber.

If they accept, you’ll be able to keep them in the loop with a reasonable amount of effort. Even if you write only one blog post per week, they’ll still hear from you every week. They have the option to comment on your articles and start a conversation within your blog’s community.

They can get to know you really well, and this will help as much or more than sending them clippings every couple of months. They may even give you cues to let you know when they’re ready to do business. You’ll be able to pick up the phone and tell them your idea, and they’ll be favorably pre-disposed to accept it.

All this is wonderful, but there’s even more.

Put Your SEO Training to Work

Many people will find you through the search engines if you’ve done good keyword research, and if you’ve paid enough attention to ongoing search engine optimization.

Make it easy for your visitors to subscribe, and those who like you will.

The search engines will be working on your behalf even when you’re sleeping or on vacation. They work 365/7 and never complain.

Save Time and Effort

If you are very busy, or you’re not sure how to research and write articles, you can rely on the tried and true clipping method. However, you’ll clip online articles instead of newspapaper or magazine stories.

You’ll frame these online articles for your readers in your post, just as you would have done using a short personal note accompanying newspaper clip. You’ll also provide a link to the site where they can read the entire story.

This approach saves you time and effort, and you can still write original content for your blog as frequently as you wish.

In Conclusion

Add to this rationale the Top Reasons Why I Blog, an earlier post, and your decision “to blog, or not to blog” will most likely be affirmative.

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Online social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook have become considerably heterogeneous over time. They support diverse agendas and activities.

One the other hand, social networking sites such as myYearbook or Linked In have retained their strictly social or business networking character.

Social Sites for Every Business

Business is embracing social networking, and most new social networking websites seem to lean more towards doing business than towards socializing.

I came across an excellent list of business networking sites and social media sites that will help you create a strong web presence for yourself or for your organization.

Inside CRM published a collection of 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence On. The entries are listed in five categories:

  1. Social Bookmarking Sites – such as reddit and Digg
  2. Business Networking Sites — like Ryze
  3. Niche Social Media Sites – including Sphinn and Tweako
  4. General Social Media Sites — such as Wikipedia
  5. Job Sites – like Yahoo! Hot Jobs

I don’t know whether their list will be updated periodically, but it is certainly an excellent jumping off point.

You can also consult Mashable’s Catalog of 350+ Social Networking SitesSeth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List and Ning Social Networking Sites for additional ideas.

You Need a Strong Web Presence

Are you an established entrepreneur or manager?

Are you opening a small business, a network marketing business or a consulting practice?

Even if you’re an employee in a corporation, you need a solid web presence to comptete in today’s Internet-based world.

When somebody Google’s YOU or your niche, what will the search engine return?

More on search engines and search engine optimization coming in future articles.

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On April 4 in Building a List with Online Social Networking I discussed the role of online social networking in permission-based marketing.

When you add a friend at one of the social networking sites, you are adding that person to your list, and at the same time you’re adding yourself to his or her list. It’s reciprocal list building.

You’ll readily agree that a tiny list is not likely to get you far. Right?

You must build a large list. But how large? And do you focus on quantity or quality?

Whether you have 100 or 500 or 5,000 people on your friends list, you aren’t going to be able to have a regular intimate dialog with all of them. So why opt for smaller rather than larger?

Ron BatesIn Stan Relihan’s interview with Ron Bates, the most connected networker on LinkedIn with around 40,000 direct connections, Ron answers the question quite succinctly. He says that “there is quality in quantity”.

In other words, the larger your list, the more people there will be who are just the ones you’re looking to meet. Some relationships will remain superficial while others will become strong friendships.

Ron also discusses the importance in business today of what he refers to as an “additive online presence”. Before somebody does business with you they’re likely to Google you to see what comes up. That’s your online presence. Each place you network, post an article or bookmark a site adds to that presence. This you may recall is a subject we touched on last month in Social Networking Sites: Your Web Presence and is frequently discussed at My Private Classroom for Marketers.

I encourage you to listen to Stan’s interview with Ron Bates and Stan’s other online social networking podcasts. You’ll find loads of gems.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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List building today isn’t the exclusive domain of autoresponders.

Sure, a reliable autoresponder is still a vital tool if you’re marketing on the Internet. However, online social networking and friend lists ought to weigh more heavily in your permission based marketing strategy.

I started realizing this in 2006 when I first joined MySpace. I noticed how much richer and more effective the two-way communication of social networking sites was than the ongoing monologue associated with e-mail marketing.

I always encourage my e-mail contacts to write me back, but few actually do. And I never learn enough about them, unless of course they choose to join me on MySpace, Facebook, Yuwie or one of the other online networking venues I frequent.

There is another big reason to incorporate online social networking in your online marketing repertoire.

Consider the ease with which you can add thousands of friends on MySpace compared to the cost and difficulty of building your autoresponder list. Whether you use one of the “friend adders” and risk suspension of your profile by the networking site owner, or whether you add friends manually, it’s still much more straightforward to build a permission based marketing list through social networking than it is using more conventional opt-in list building techniques.

I myself do both. I add new subscribers to my autoresponders on a regular basis and simultaneously add new contacts to my friend lists on LinkedIn, MySpace and Yuwie. I have a good reason for doing so.

Not withstanding my previous remarks, it’s easier for me to broadcast a message on demand to my opt-in list than it is to my social networking friends.

Most people check their e-mail at least once a day. If they want to hear from me, they will.

If I post a bulletin on MySpace they can easily miss it. I have to post it several times each day to keep it “on top”. And if they don’t log in, or even worse, if they’ve abandoned their profile, they won’t see the message at all.

So why should you put all your eggs in one basket? Diversify. E-mail people and contact them through multiple sites and through multiple channels on each site to maximize your message delivery and response rate.

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Entrepreneurs creating social media sites and developers of exotic juice drinks clashed today at a major press conference.

The source of the conflict appears to be the number of letters in the English alphabet. Currently there are 26 according to a recent count by one of the big accounting firms who asked not to be named.

With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, new letter permutations for naming are becoming increasingly scarce.

Several solutions have been proposed:

  • Allow each name to be used twice, once by a social media site and once by a juice drink. This would allow a media site to be called Zrii and a drink to be named Xing.
  • Make all names fully case sensitive. Noni can be spelled noni, nOni, NOni, noNi, etc. Similarly Digg, DIgg, diGg, digG, etc.
  • Ignore conventions such as u after q. Qassia has already exploited this. Watch, one of the juice companies will probably retaliate before long.
  • Import letters from other languages such as Hebrew or Russian. Since most of the sites and drink names are already unpronounceable, this particular objection could not possibly stand in the way. Text processors would have to be updated. Bill Gates is said to be considering the implications with glee.
  • Precede all names with a prefix, sort of like an area code. You might see 1-212-Facebook. Not only would this ploy be cumbersome, the “new” AT&T could consider this a form of infringement.
  • Wait to see if the problem goes away. This remedy was suggested by officials high up in the Social Security Administration and praised by the president.

Yours truly, a notable problem solver and all around nice guy was asked his opinion. He said, and I quote, “Don’t worry so much. Today is April 1st. Go to sleep, and when you wake, you’ll realize that it was only a bad dream.”

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Larry Brauner

I just made my first video, a replay of my August 8, 2007 conference call.

It’s too long to upload to YouTube, so I uploaded it to Google.

It’s all about offline and online social networking, and about how networking differs from advertising. Hope you like it!

I recommend looking and listening, especially if you’ve ever used Direct Matches or any of the other social networking sites. Without further ado, here’s my video.

If it doesn’t play right away, try again. Google sometimes needs coaxing. If the situation gets desperate, download it from the Online Social Networking video archive.

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