Larry BraunerThis is a quick heads up about a content sharing error that’s easy to avoid.

When you share content on Facebook, LinkedIn or Digg, the site looks for thumbnail pictures it can show with your link and suggests one to you.

I’ve noticed people accepting whatever thumbnail Facebook, LinkedIn or Digg suggests. This isn’t a good practice, because that thumbnail may be irrelevant or even worse, an ad picked up from the linked page.

It’s important to show a thumbnail picture that’s relevant and if possible, one that can pique people’s interest. Therefore, you should go through all thumbnail choices to find the best one. If none are suitable, choose not to display a thumbnail at all. Having no thumbnail picture is much better than having an unsuitable one.

FacebookOn Facebook, you should also write a sentence or short paragraph to introduce the content and consider tagging the author if you follow that person or it’s a friend.

Packaging content and retweets is also a good practice on Twitter, even though Twitter doesn’t use thumbnails in the same way as Facebook, LinkedIn and Digg.

How you package content can be just as important as the content itself.

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Larry BraunerI asserted in Social and Business Networking Evolving that the integration of offline and online social and business networking, along with mobile technology, will dominate the social space for years to come.

Since business networking sites first appeared back in 2003, offline and online business networking have remained dichotomous. Generally, we’ve networked either offline or online. Business networking participants who wisely bridged the offline-online networking gap were in the small minority. However, all that is changing.

Those people doing their business networking online have been learning the importance of connecting offline for building trusting relationships. At the same time, people doing their business networking offline have been looking online for ways to nurture relationships once a business event or meeting is over.

Still a Long Way to Go

Nevertheless, although we’re headed in the right direction, we’re a long way from from overcoming skepticism and from seamlessly joining offline and online business networking.

If you and I meet online, we can communicate by phone or by Skype. This type of offline contact can greatly improve the quality of our interaction. Then, if we’re not too separated by distance, we can meet face-to-face. We can also stay in touch online. This is the approach I take.

However, if you and I meet offline, we might never connect online. Neither LinkedIn, Facebook nor any other social or business networking site is open enough or prevalent enough for us to easily follow up after an offline business networking event or meeting. One or both of us might never even go online nor see the merit in keeping in touch online except for the use of email.

I’m confident we’ll gradually close existing business networking technology and credibility gaps. While we’re waiting, why not subscribe to my blog and leave me a comment? ;-)

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Larry BraunerCan social aggregation and syndication websites make life online easier?

I wrote in Hubze is a New Business Site for Personal Branding and Social Media Aggregation that “the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront.”

Social Networking SitesSocial media enthusiasts who regularly cross post on multiple social platforms use aggregation and syndication sites and tools to simplify simultaneous cross posting across those platforms.

For example, I often want to share a link, an idea or content on all of the most popular social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning sites, such as inSocialMedia).

Since I don’t want to work through a complicated or tedious process each time I do that, I rely on syndication sites such as Amplify, Ping.fm and Posterous to help, depending upon the type of information I’m sharing.

Posterous vs. Amplify vs. Ping.fm

I prefer syndication sites over desktop tools, since I can access those sites from any computer wherever I happen to be, and they also help build my web presence. These are my current favorites:

  • Amplify - A social bookmarking site . You add links (along with article snippets if you like) using a browser bookmarklet, and your entries are posted to all the social networks you’ve specified. Amplify also has a strong social element and is a useful online social networking resource.
  • Ping.fm - A micro blogging site (a little like Twitter). Your posts can have pics attached, and can be distributed to a large variety of pre-specified social websites. You can conveniently submit your posts to Ping.fm by email.
  • Posterous - A blogging community to which you can post pics, video and text. Your Posterous posts are shared on a variety of pre-specified social websites. Posterous, like Amplify, has a strong social element. As with Ping.fm, you can submit your posts to Posterous by email, and as with Amplify you can create posts using a browser bookmarklet.

Hubze, now in testing, may be another important aggregation and syndication site in the future.

However, there are many syndication sites and tools that are already being used successfully. Which social aggregation and syndication websites and tools do you like to use — and why?

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Larry BraunerIn 8 Simple Ways to Penetrate Social Media Clutter, I recommended  that you leverage multiple traffic sources. In Looking for Traffic in All the Wrong Places, I gave you a partial list of the places I look to get more website traffic.

Based upon Google Analytics data pertaining to my recent blog visits, bounce rates and average time on site, I present my top 10 blog traffic sources along with some notes on each:

  1. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing - They account for 35% of my traffic. When my blog was new, I didn’t get any search engine traffic at all. Now, however, I get 5,000 visits from searches per month — including business people seeking precisely the types of services I offer. The credit goes to search engine optimization and to a growing reservoir of content.
  2. Entrecard, a traffic exchange for bloggers - Admittedly, Entrecard provides me with lots of worthless traffic. Fortunately, however, the site provides me with some great traffic too and an opportunity to build key relationships with other bloggers. One of my favorites at Entrecard is Gera from Uruguay, owner of the Sweets Foods blog. He and I are now also connected by email, Facebook and Twitter. As with all other traffic sources, to benefit from Entrecard you’ll need to make a long-term commitment to developing it.
  3. Twitter - I’ve written at length about Twitter. Read Twitter Stats Defy Measurement. I’m happy to have started with Twitter in 2008 when Twitter’s rules didn’t get in the way of building a large following. Today, different tactics are necessary to connect with your target audience. Start by encouraging your website visitors and friends on social networking sites to follow you on Twitter. Then gradually introduce new Twitter tools into your mix. My favorite tool, Tweet Adder, which I use daily, is worth the small investment.
  4. Facebook - I turned my attention to Facebook in June 2009 and experimented with the NetworkedBlogs application, which may have introduced new readers to my blog, but proved to be a poor source of ongoing traffic. On the other hand, profiles, fan pages and events showed themselves to be excellent traffic sources. It seems to me, so far, that Facebook fan pages are very effective as a form of web site subscription.
  5. Ning social network - I’m sorry to report that Ning has morphed into a host of unrelated niche sites. If you have your own Ning site, or a group or lots of friends on someone else’s Ning site, you can use that site to move traffic. As with Twitter, getting started with Ning is harder than it used to be, and the marketing benefits are fewer. I belong to many Ning sites and have several of my own. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network.
  6. Business Exchange - Discovered this social bookmarking site recently and wrote about it in 12 Tips for Using Business Week’s Social Bookmarking Site. I’m hoping that Business Exchange will help me generate a lot of high quality traffic in the year to come.
  7. Blog Catalog - If you have a blog and decide to use BlogCatalog, start your own group there; make many friends on the site and invite them to join your group. Those who join are interested in you and your group’s theme.
  8. StumbleUpon - Planning to learn much more about StumbleUpon and use it much more this year. I’ll keep you posted.
  9. LinkedIn - While well connected on LinkedIn, I’m not using it much at present. Most of my LinkedIn traffic is coming as a result of the Twitter LinkedIn integration.
  10. Ryze - Here I first encountered online social networking back in 2003. I  find Ryze very underwhelming in 2010. The traffic I get from Ryze comes from posting in groups, which are really forums.

I believe that Blogger is sending me websitetraffic because of Google Friend Connect. Also, I heard a rumor that Yahoo! is dumping MyBlogLog. Will let you know about both of them.

You made it all the way down here. Why not scroll down a drop more and leave a comment? ;-)

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Larry BraunerI’ve bookmarked and skimmed a dozen or more articles that project the path of social media in 2010. Collectively these articles represent many days of researching and writing.

Search Social Media 2010 on Google, and you’ll be able to compile your own social media 2010 reading list. If the information in all the articles isn’t sufficiently comprehensive, a list of 44+ social media books to buy and read can help fill the gaps.

2010Not that I don’t like reading about trends and innovations — I do. However, I learned long ago that the bleeding edge cuts both ways, and there’s merit in waiting until the timing is right.

Blogs and Facebook have been around for years, yet only recently have they emerged as key tools for main- stream businesses.

I suggest that we watch and see how social media and technology play out in 2010, but that we focus on the basics and build our web presences right now using techniques and resources at our fingertips.

Here are my eight social media marketing basics for building a web presence 2010:

  1. Core Marketing and PR Competencies - Analytics, branding, communication, competitive intelligence, design, list building, market segmentation, marketing research, targeting, etc.
  2. High-Quality Relevant Content - Producing and sharing articles, videos, podcasts, pictures, conference calls and talk shows.
  3. Search Engine Optimization - Social media and SEO complement each other. Read Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization and Website vs. Web Presence.
  4. Blogging - Also in Website vs. Web Presence, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to social media marketing, an approach to which I subscribe.
  5. Social Networking Sites - Nearly any social media site can present opportunities to network. By social networking sites, I mean sites that exist primarily for networking rather than content sharing.The principal social networking sites for business are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can also throw into the mix Ning and other niche social networking sites.
  6. Content Sharing Sites - Two of the most popular content sharing sites are YouTube and Flickr, but there are many more.
  7. Social Bookmarking Sites - There are hundreds of business and social bookmarking sites. Two of my favorite sites are Business Exchange and StumbleUpon.
  8. Blog and Web Site Networks - There are many blog and website networks. My favorites include Entrecard, NetworkedBlogsTechnorati, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog and Google Friend Connect.

With these social media basics, you can build a huge web presence in 2010. It’s not possession of the latest technology or an inside scoop on a new FB app that’ll enable you to soar in 2010. Your success will depend largely upon your own creativity, skills, efficiency and inner motivation.

I hope you have already mastered the all-important skills of subscribing to blogs and commenting on blog posts.  ;-)

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Larry BraunerLooking over my traffic stats several weeks ago, I was very surprised to notice that a single visitor had been referred to my blog by Business Week.

I traced the visit back to Business Exchange, Bloomberg Business Week’s social bookmarking site “that helps professionals discover and organize information from across the Web… a great way to share content and find the most relevant news on business topics.”

Anita Campbell, a Twitter friend and CEO of Small Business Trends, “an online small biz community reaching over 250,000 each month,” had saved my blog post, The Social Media ROI Obsession, on the Business Exchange site. Somebody evidently clicked through to my blog to read the article.

Once I arrived at Business Exchange, I quickly realized that this social media site was much more upscale and business-like than the social bookmarking sites with which I was familiar, and I saw BX as a potential venue for sharing content and networking up with corporate executives and media elite.

On Friday, Business Exchange notified me that I will be the featured user starting Tuesday, December 22nd at approximately 9:15am ET and lasting for 24 hours. I thought therefore that this would be an opportune moment to write about the Business Exchange site.

Business Exchange Site Basics

These are the principal ways you interact with the Business Exchange site. You can:

  • join and set up your account
  • search topics and people (note that the search box is tucked away at the bottom, way below the fold)
  • bookmark articles you discover into one or more topics
  • browse articles that have previously been bookmarked
  • react to articles that you or others have bookmarked
  • save topics and articles of interest for easy future access
  • follow other users
  • explore users’ links
  • subscribe to other users’ activity

Here are 12 easy ways that you can benefit from the Business Exchange site:

  1. When you join, choose the option to link your Business Exchange and LinkedIn profiles. Your LinkedIn information will automatically be filled in on your Business Exchange profile page, and you will be able to easily send invitations to your LinkedIn connections.
  2. You can let Business Exchange automatically post your reactions to LinkedIn and Twitter. I checked off the box for LinkedIn but not for Twitter. It’s your decision.
  3. Bookmark only high quality business articles that fit into existing topics. Add each article to as many topics as apply, up to five, the maximum. You’ll receive contribution points, one for each topic.
  4. You may bookmark your own high quality business articles, but if you bookmark only your content, you’re likely to be labeled a spammer, and your standing on Business Exchange will be jeopardized.
  5. You don’t have to bookmark articles to participate actively. You can react to articles bookmarked by others and receive a contribution point for each reaction.
  6. Other users will likely “size you up” based on your your contribution points, the quality of your contributions and reactions, the number of users following you, your profile and your links.
  7. Follow users who interest you. Don’t expect them to follow back automatically, and don’t automatically follow users who follow you.
  8. Explore other users’ links. You might discover a blog or other website that you’ll like. You may also find a way to connect up with them at another site and network together. Let them know that you’re both Business Exchange users.
  9. On LinkedIn, if you and another member belong to a common group, you can send an invitation without knowing that member’s email. If that person just followed you on Business Exchange or is a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION), extend an invitation and mention Business Exchange.
  10. Use the Business Exchange home page interface to invite LinkedIn connections. X-out people you don’t really know, so that you don’t risk spamming them. Customize your invitation message. Those who join will be added as mutual followers automatically.
  11. When telling friends about Business Exchange or promoting the site, link directly to your profile. You want that they should get the idea to follow you if they join.
  12. The Business Exchange site tends to be slow. Be patient. It’s worth waiting. Business Exchange is in beta, and hopefully Business Week is addressing the response time problem at this very moment.

Conclusion

I’ve been pleased with the articles bookmarked at Business Exchange and the quality of traffic my blog has received from the site. I hope you’ll have a similar good experience with Business Exchange.

Before you go, please subscribe and leave me a comment. See you on Business Exchange. :-)

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Larry Brauner
We learn nearly every day of developments in the social media world which have the potential for far reaching impact.

Take for example the recent integration of LinkedIn with Twitter. You can now tweet your LinkedIn status to your Twitter followers and automatically post your tweets to your LinkedIn status.

It is easy to see that this Twitter-LinkedIn partnership has many practical implications. Based on my research, these are my top 10 takeaways from the new Twitter-LinkedIn hookup:

  1. Microblogging has gone mainstream. Facebook has its own microblogging platform, and Twitter tweets can now show up on MySpace, LinkedIn and lots of other places on the web.
  2. Twitter is the de facto king (queen?) of microblogging.
  3. Twitter is a medium for real business conversation. You can still tweet about  breakfast, diapers or the light turning green. Small talk and chit-chat are the norm on Twitter. However, increasingly, people and companies are branding themselves and exchanging ideas on Twitter, 140 characters or one link at a time.
  4. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration helps LinkedIn by adding new life and meaning to its neglected status-update function and by adding much more dynamic content to the site as a whole. As a result, LinkedIn can be more competitive. Hopefully Ning will take notice and react!
  5. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration helps Twitter by attracting new professional users from LinkedIn who were previously too skeptical to join.
  6. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration enables members of both Twitter and LinkedIn to cross-post with ease, providing users with greater social marketing leverage.
  7. LinkedIn can help to reduce an enormous amount of content, functioning almost as would a Twitter list containing only members of your LinkedIn network.
  8. The hashtags #in and #li allow for selective cross-posting from Twitter to LinkedIn. This wasn’t possible when cross-posting with Ping.fm.
  9. The use of hashtags to selectively cross-post from Twitter to LinkedIn suggests the possibility of using hashtags similarly with other apps.
  10. Aggregation and syndication (using the semantic web or tools like Ping.fm and FriendFeed) have been touted as the next major trend in social media. However, the integration of Twitter and LinkedIn, although still at an early stage,  demonstrates that collaboration too (when achievable) has much to offer. I suppose that the absence of conflict between Twitter’s business model (whatever that is) and the ad-based models of competitors helps to create a favorable climate for collaboration.

What are your thoughts on the Twitter-LinkedIn integration, and what are some of your takeaways?

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Larry BraunerI am about to discuss targeting and connecting as they apply to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning networks, the most popular social networking sites for business networking.

I could have broken the material into four separate blog posts, but decided instead to deliver it to you as four articles wrapped up into one long one.

For simplicity, I am assuming that your target market uses each of the sites. Since that may not be true in your case, feel free to adapt these business networking techniques to all other social networking sites as needed.

Facebook

Targeting and connecting on Facebook are pretty straightforward with one caveat. You are limited to 5,000 connections on Facebook, so you can’t afford to cast too wide a net. Be fussy about whom you connect with and remove from your friends anybody who spams you.

To identify people in your target market, search for groups and Facebook networked blogs that would likely interest them. Join the groups and follow the blogs yourself. Then browse the members of those groups and followers of those blogs to find potential connections.

I believe that blog followers as a whole are more active on Facebook than mere group members. However, consider selecting only members with some minimum number of friends such as 100 to weed out people who don’t really engage with the site.

If you’re not sure which groups and blogs to select, try connecting with others in your niche. You’ll be able to see which groups they lead or belong to and which blogs they publish or follow. You can also examine their Facebook walls to find additional potential connections.

Connecting isn’t difficult. When you invite another member, include a short note such as, “You and I are both members of the Social Networking Haters group.”

Please, promise me that you won’t write anything nerdy like, “I’m looking to connect with like minded people.” Don’t use a line like that with anybody anywhere ever. I mean it.

Twitter

The Twitter learning curve is steep. If you’re not well versed with Twitter, try the advice and resources in my Twitter articles. I’m going to assume that you pretty much know what you’re doing.

Since Twitter is bloated with spammers’ phony profiles, targeting on Twitter is difficult and getting more difficult all the time. It’s going to be a messy job, so be prepared. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Do not connect with anybody who has:

  • no profile information or inappropriate profile information
  • no picture, avatar or business logo
  • a lopsided relationship between following and followers
  • almost no tweets or spammy looking tweets

Do follow back anybody else who follows you. Unfollow anybody who spams you.

To identify Twitter members in your target market, start your search by using Find People to look for other people in your niche. Avoid the biggies, since they are magnets for spam, and a large percentage of their followers are spammers.

Look for the ones who have a few hundred to a few thousand followers.

Follow them and follow their followers — unless of course a particular follower looks suspicious based on the criteria I just listed above. A portion of their followers will hopefully belong to your target market.

Unfollow the people who don’t follow back after a few days and repeat the process.

Consider using a tool to manage your account.

LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, targeting is fairly straightforward, but connecting can be a challenge.

If you’re a job hunter or a headhunter in the recruiting industry, you should probably connect with as many people as you can. Since the limit is reportedly 30,000, you can afford to cast a very wide net.

In any case you should accept all invitations. Remove any connection who who spams you:

  1. Click on “Connections” which is on the left side bar.
  2. Click on “Remove Connections” which is currently near the upper right corner
  3. Then follow the instructions.

The main difficulty with LinkedIn is that if you invite someone who then indicates that they don’t know you, you get a strike against you. If this happens often, LinkedIn restricts your inviting privileges.

People who are open to invitations and implicitly agree not to indicate that they don’t know you are call LinkedIn Open Networkers, abbreviated LION.

There are at least two groups for LinkedIn Open Networkers:

You can join and browse these groups to find people to link to. They of course have an option to accept you or to archive you, i.e. ignore you. Usually they accept.

If you are not a job hunter or headhunter, you’re probably better off targeting than trying to connect to thousands of people. That’s your judgment call.

You can do both, just as I do. But I admit that I started as a job hunter years ago and built a large base at that time. If I were starting today, I think I would stick to targeting.

To make the best connections, join the groups that people in your target market would join, and participate in the groups’ discussions. You’ll naturally make connections and get some traffic to your blog or website along the way.

Ning Network

Targeting on Ning is a little tricky. Cast a wide net on Ning, since I’m not aware of any upper limit on the number of Ning friends.

Here are the challenges that you face when adding Ning friends:

  • You can only have 100 outstanding friend requests. You’ll have to dis-invite people who don’t respond. Do this from the “Friends” tab of your Ning dashboard at Ning.com.
  • Most of the people you invite won’t respond. Either they don’t know how or they’ve already abandoned the site.

You improve your results by posting a friendly, non-spammy and non-nerdy comment to their profile at the time you invite them.

You also improve your results by inviting people who have recently joined the site, the ones at the beginning of the member list, or people who are obviously engaging with the site.

Find people in your target market by joining Ning networks and groups that are likely to attract these people. Invite a hundred people, and wait a day. Some will accept, so you can invite more.

When you get stuck, trim your invite list starting from the end. While this can be a slow process, it has worked for me and for others.

Be careful not to spam your friends. Don’t invite them directly to join new Ning sites.

The best way to communicate with your Ning friends is to write informative blog posts on a Ning site about something that would interest people in your target audience. Then use the share feature on Ning to let them know about your post.

Read Introduction to Using Ning Sites and other Ning articles.

Now It’s Your Turn

I don’t have a monopoly on online business networking techniques. Why not share some of your own targeting and connecting ideas?

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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 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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