Larry BraunerI stated in How to Benefit from the New Facebook Groups that “you don’t need to lead a group in order to benefit from it.” In other words, there is value in joining other people’s Facebook groups. That value can be enormous, as I’ll explain.

Facebook Group Members Become Followers

FacebookEvery new Facebook group has members who follow that group and all of its conversations by means of the Facebook notification system. Not every member will monitor or engage in discussions, but some will. Therefore, each time you become a member of one of the new Facebook groups, you acquire potential new followers.

For each subject that interests you, join as many relevant new Facebook groups as you can find using the Facebook search function. Once you’ve joined the group and can browse its discussions, if you find that they’re in a language you don’t understand, or that the group is overrun by spammers, leave the group.

Examine the list of new Facebook groups to which I belong. You’ll find that they fall into a many categories, and that most categories contain more than one group. I suggest that you follow a similar approach, and if you wish to join some of the same groups as I, don’t hesitate.

Here are three very important points:

  1. Don’t use the new Facebook groups merely to push out your own content, since that’s spam. Group members will see through your approach and ignore you. Not only that, the group moderator might even reprimand you or expel you from the group.
  2. Share content with each Facebook group that’s relevant to that group. Group members will appreciate you, enjoy your participation and become genuine followers.
  3. Don’t just post. “Like” other people’s posts too and comment on them when appropriate.

As I browse the web, I keep my eyes open for content worth sharing. I then share it in a variety of places including the relevant  new Facebook groups to which I belong. When the time comes to share my own content, I follow the exact same procedure, but because I’ve played fair, my posts aren’t viewed at all as spam. Consequently, I receive lots of traffic from Facebook and other social websites.

Go now and acquire some Facebook followers. The relationships you build in the new Facebook groups can easily grow into meaningful social or business friendships.

Before you go, however, please do subscribe and leave a comment. ;-)

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Larry BraunerA Facebook friend recently asked about accepting friend requests on social networking sites, and I promised to discuss the matter. There is no single correct approach. However, by contrasting Facebook and LinkedIn, I hope to present and clarify a few of the issues.

Accepting Friends on Facebook

FacebookFacebook is a social website intended primarily for social networking. Regarding accepting friends on Facebook, whether using Facebook for business networking or social networking, the best approach is clearly to be selective,  because of both privacy concerns and the 5,000 Facebook friend limit.

Should you unwittingly accept a con artist as a friend on Facebook, you’ll give that person greater access to your personal information and the personal information of your friends. If somebody who invites you to become a friend appears suspicious, reject the offer and indicate to Facebook that you don’t know the person.

You also need to be selective, because Facebook friends are limited. I myself accept all requests that are plausible, but I continually unfriend people for one of the following reasons:

  • They spam me or annoy me.
  • Facebook tells me that it’s their birthday, and when I visit their profile pages, I have no idea who they are. In other words, I can’t remember them ever having any interaction with me.

In this manner, I fine tune my friend list, so that when I do reach 5,000 Facebook friends, most of those connections will have real social networking or business networking value to me.

Accepting Friends on LinkedIn

LinkedInLinkedIn is a social website intended exclusively for business networking. Regarding accepting friends on LinkedIn, there are two contrastingly different approaches that have gained acceptance within the LinkedIn community. You are free to choose either approach, but, once you do, you need to follow your chosen approach consistently.

  1. Closed Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn only with people you know or whom your respected contacts introduce to you. LinkedIn recommends and approves of this approach, as it allows you to build a trusted business network.
  2. Open Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn with as many people as possible, since your objective is maximize your reach and visibility on the business networking site. You may occasionally need to remove people who abuse the connection with you. This is the approach I myself have adopted, and you may feel free to invite me. My LinkedIn email is in my LinkedIn profile.

Comments and questions are welcome. Please subscribe and “like” my Facebook page.

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Larry BraunerIn New Facebook Groups for Better or Worse, I shared my reservations about the new Facebook groups and their potential to annoy Facebook users.

However, after ample testing and observation, I’m no longer worried about negative effects and have come to view the new Facebook groups as a viable business networking and content syndication tool.

The  on-site and email notifications generated by the new Facebook groups can become irritating, but it’s from these in-your-face notifications that the new groups derive their power. They tend to stimulate member activity. On the other hand, the notifications from the old groups had come to be viewed as total spam and were no longer the least bit effective.

Customize Your New Facebook Group Notifications

FacebookThe customizable settings of the new Facebook groups help regulate the volume of notifications, add once you learn how to manage them, the new Facebook groups become beneficial and enjoyable.

New Facebook groups provide four notification settings that you can adjust:

  1. Notify me when - “A member posts or comments” or “a member posts” are good settings for your favorite Facebook groups or groups you moderate. For other groups, you should choose “a friend posts” or “only posts I am subscribed to.” (I myself prefer the latter option, “only posts I am subscribed to.”)
  2. Also send an email to - Unless you’re off Facebook a lot, you probably should uncheck this box.
  3. Show this group in home navigation - This setting isn’t as critical as the others, since it doesn’t affect notifications. I myself set my favorite Facebook groups to “Always” and the rest of the groups to “Never.”  
  4. Send me group chat messages - Unless you enjoy group chatting or you moderate that group, you should uncheck this box.

You Need Not Start Your Own Facebook Groups

Starting your own Facebook groups affords you some control but less than you might think. True, you make up the group rules, and while you can remove any member you wish, nobody can remove you. Nevertheless, abuse your group by spamming or otherwise, and your members will ignore your group or quit entirely.

For this reason, control of your Facebook group is illusory. Groups can be led but not controlled, and you don’t need to own or moderate a group in order to lead it. Furthermore, you don’t need to lead a group in order to benefit from it and enjoy it.

Why Start New Facebook Groups of Your Own

Here are a few valid reasons for starting your own Facebook groups:

  • Necessity - You’re unable to find any new Facebook groups that fit your particular niche.
  • Collaboration - You want to collaborate on a project with your Facebook friends or associates.
  • Segmentation - Your Facebook friends share diverse interests with you. Segmenting your friends using groups will let you explore special interests together.
  • Promotion - New Facebook groups can be used judiciously to supplement Facebook fan pages.

When you start a new Facebook group, keep the best interests of your membership in mind. Reciprocity makes the networking world go around. Be prepared to give, not just to get.

Please subscribe and like my Facebook page.

Comments are welcome — of course. :-)

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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 BraunerThe social media and web marketing space is evolving, and we must therefore continually revise our social media and web marketing strategies and techniques.

Here are several cases in point that affect social media and web marketing practice, especially for small business.

Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking

FacebookFor years, Facebook was an open social networking site that permitted members to befriend people whom they didn’t know despite mounting privacy concerns.

However, in 2010, Facebook tightened its friending policies in order to combat phishing and spamming practices.

It appears that Facebook now evaluates friend requests based on degrees of separation and profiles users who repeatedly go out-of-bounds, restricting their friending capabilities.

Consequently, we must regard Facebook as a closed networking site going forward, despite the Facebook Freedom to Share and Connect principle, and find approaches to building our Facebook networks that don’t raise red flags.

Hello Ning Open Networking

Ning Social NetworksSince the Ning shift earlier this year from free or paid networks to paid-only networks, protest from disgruntled free-site creators has subsided and, as promised, Ning has come through with improved functionality upgraded periodically.

While Ning cannot compete with Facebook based neither on popularity nor functionality, Ning is nevertheless a great platform for creating niche social networking sites and for open networking.

I’ve dedicated the Small Business Network, my own Ning networking site, to the pursuit of open social and business networking, and I would be delighted if you would join me there.

You can still share via broadcast any of your Ning content, like blog posts or pictures, with all your Ning friends, a feature not found on the Facebook or LinkedIn social networks.

Search Engine Optimization Still Pays Big

GoogleNotwithstanding my remarks in The NEW Search Engine Optimization, search engines are still the mightiest source of website traffic, and SEO is still the most vital web marketing activity.

Social media sites send thousands of visitors per month to Online Social Networking. However, Google and other search engines send much more. Having a website or blog site and optimizing it for search engines and humans is of paramount importance if you want to market successfully on the web.

Put website development and optimization at the very top of your to-do list for 2011.

Please accept my sincere wishes for a healthy, fulfilling and peaceful New Year. I look forward to growing and sharing with you in the years to come.

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Larry BraunerLittle by little, Facebook members are discovering the dark side of the new Facebook groups.

In The Problem with Facebook Groups, I complain that old Facebook Groups lack member engagement. Members aren’t notified when content is added to the group and only learn of new posts or comments if by chance they visit the group’s page or if a moderator broadcasts a message to them.

Problems with New Facebook Groups

FacebookThe new Facebook groups have the opposite problem. By default, a member is notified every time another member posts. If the new Facebook group is large, members will be bombarded with unwanted email notifications and chat window popups. The engagement problem is solved, but a new notification problem is created.

Users who are bothered by the quantity of email notifications can change their notification setting to “only posts I am subscribed to” and reduce or eliminate the notification problem –  once they figure out how to do so.

However, there’s a bigger problem not yet mentioned: One can be added by Facebook friends to new Facebook groups without pre-approval. Therefore, before one knows what’s happening, and before one can leave the group or change one’s notification setting, emails start flowing into his or her inbox, seemingly out of nowhere. Sounds like fiction, but I’m not making this up!

Marketing vs. Collaboration

These problems render the new Facebook groups, as currently formulated, totally unsuitable for Facebook marketing.

On the other hand, new Facebook groups work very well for collaboration, especially with their group document creation and editing capability.

New Facebook Group for GroupGain Collaboration

GroupGainI’m working closely with a team of interns promoting GroupGain, a social networking site for group buying with a unique twist that’s launching soon. We have a new Facebook group that’s tiny, has just nine members, and each of us knew in advance that we’d be added to the group. As a result, there haven’t been any problems associated with our new Facebook group.

More Information about New Facebook Groups

I suggest you read Facebook Groups – A Walkthrough of Group Email, Docs, Chat, and More for the new Facebook groups basics, and Facebook Groups Spam and The Notifications Dilemma, as well. Both pieces are featured on Inside Facebook.

New Facebook Groups Verdict

If the new Facebook groups would require members to opt-in, not opt-out, members wouldn’t be taken as much by surprise. Until Facebook makes some adjustments, I give the new Facebook groups a thumbs-up for group collaboration (or small-scale networks) and a thumbs-down for marketing (and large-scale networks).

Having been forewarned, you my join my new Facebook group if you dare:

Larry Brauner’s Group

Have a new Facebook groups war story to share with us?

Please “like” my Facebook page and subscribe to my blog. :)

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Larry BraunerYou’ve created Ning networks or belong to Ning networks started by others. What next?

In 10 Ways to Brand and Market on Ning Networks, I examine a variety of Ning network features that are useful for promoting yourself or your business.

Ning Social NetworksHowever, what if you’re interested in promoting a Ning social network itself?

Here are 10 ideas for promoting the Ning networks to which you belong:

  1. Your Contacts - Send personalized emails to people you know. (Ning’s invite feature is not effective, since the emails Ning sends are impersonal and will be treated by many as spam.)
  2. Network Content - Share your Ning network, your network’s groups and all your network’s content on social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon. This approach is my personal favorite, since it promotes the Ning network and the network’s content at the same time.
  3. Articles and Blog Posts - Discuss your Ning network and your network’s content in blog posts and articles you write.
  4. Badges or Widgets - Place your Ning network badge on blogs and other websites. Even if badges attract few new members, they’ll help with SEO efforts by providing inbound links. A badge on the sidebar of a blog is in effect a link from every page and blog post on that blog.
  5. Links - Build inbound dofollow links to your Ning network and your network’s content.  Links, like Ning network badges, help with SEO, even if they don’t send much direct traffic. Use relevant anchor text in your links.
  6. SEO - Optimized keyword-rich blog posts on your Ning network will attract visitors who are looking for your content. Building links as previously mentioned will improve SEO results.
  7. Connectors and Influencers - Ask networking connectors and social media influencers to help by referring new members to your Ning network. These types of people love to help others.
  8. Comment on Blogs and Forums - Use insightful comments to pique interest and drive traffic to your Ning network. Avoid spamming!
  9. Classified Ads - Craigslist and other advertising sites can drive traffic to your Ning network. Experiment to learn what works best.
  10. Business Cards and Fliers - Experiment with offline marketing, as well. I suggest you keep it simple.

I encourage you to add your own ideas to this list.

Join my Small Business Network (promoting my Ning network ;-) ), and if you’re new to this blog, please subscribe.

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Larry BraunerThe main problem with Facebook groups is a problem that all online networking sites and offline networking groups face, insufficient engagement.

People find it easy to join a networking group but difficult to show up or to participate online or in meetings.

Facebook Groups Especially Problematic

FacebookOne very serious limitation of Facebook groups is that posted content doesn’t appear in members’ news feeds.

This limitation doesn’t apply to Facebook pages and profiles. However, positioning and visibility of Facebook page and profile content on users’ news feeds is subject to Facebook EdgeRank.

Since content doesn’t appear in members’ news feeds, group members can only learn of new content or read that content if they happen to visit the group’s page.

Partial Solution to Facebook Groups Problem

Fortunately, this problem is partially offset by an important feature of Facebook groups. Moderators can send newsletters to group members that are delivered directly to their Facebook inboxes. Group newsletters can inform and help to increase participation.

Too many group creators use their group’s newsletters to spam members. Spamming members makes newsletters ineffective and kills any chance of getting members to participate. My advice is to keep members’ interests in mind when you mail them, not just your own.

Please don’t forget, you can broadcast newsletters directly to your members’ inboxes provided you don’t have 5,000 members or more, so limit the size of your membership.

That’s all I have to say about the problem with Facebook groups until you leave a comment. ;-)

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Larry Brauner
Spammers follow the path of least resistance. If you create a new opportunity for spam, spammers will exploit it.

Spammers have noticed that Facebook fan pages are gaining popularity and have started capitalizing on fan page vulnerability.

Facebook Fan Page and Event Page Spam

FacebookTo spam a Facebook fan page is very simple. Spammers add themselves as fans of the Facebook page and then post their spam directly on the fan page wall — hit and run. The spam remains on the page wall until an administrator removes it.

Spammers can also spam the wall of a Facebook fan page discussion tab or an event page.

Other Facebook Spam

Spammers are also posting their links on NetworkedBlogs discussion walls. Fortunately, NetworkedBlogs discussion walls aren’t prominently displayed, and there isn’t much incentive for spammers to post there.

Well meaning Facebook friends frequently sign-up to use silly applications that seem harmless and fun. These applications then spam their Facebook friends’ profile pages.

Sadly, the proliferation of annoying applications has permanently driven many serious networkers off of Facebook in despair.

Top 10 Most Wanted Spammers

I hope that between now and next April 1 we can create a top spammer list and shame spammers into submission. We’ll post the list in post offices and big stores, as well as on web sites and, of course, on Facebook fan pages.

Spamming on Facebook fan pages and elsewhere on Facebook is indeed a real problem. I’m sorry, however, for using a misleading title. Please forgive my once-a-year April Fools prank.  ;-)

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Larry BraunerHave you ever been slapped by Google or by one of the major business networking sites?

I have — more than once.

I recently received a Twitter slap, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. If you’ve never received a slap yourself, perhaps your approach is overly cautious.

Clarification

Slapped by GoogleOf course, one wouldn’t actively choose to be penalized by a major business site. Yet, with so many gray and fuzzy areas, this particular hazard is very difficult to skirt.

Fortunately, a slap isn’t as bad as a total ban. A ban can have major long-term consequences. However, even a slap by Google or by an ISP could cause considerable loss. Most slaps result from black hat SEO techniques or some other form of spam.

Twitter Slap

Twitter SlapOutright spam on Twitter risks account cancellation.  More subtle types of spam typically incur the exclusion of tweets from search results, thereby making one invisible to all except his or her followers.

Here are four situations that invite Twitter slap:

  1. Duplicate content - Repeatedly tweeting the same tweets or links
  2. Duplicate accounts - Creating multiple Twitter accounts with the same bio text or linking to the same site
  3. Aggressive use of #hashtags - Using #hashtags haphazardly or maliciously
  4. Following vs. follower ratio - For example, an account following 2,000 with only 10 followers.

In the past, I had several Twitter accounts linking to this blog and tended to append #hashtags to my tweets much too generously. I may also have tweeted some duplicate content. Now tweets from my main Twitter account are excluded from search results.

Sending lots of @ messages to non-followers is outright spam and ought to be reported using the “report for spam” link. I would never consider doing such a thing.

Coping with Twitter Slap

While not disastrous, Twitter slap is troublesome. My #hashtags do no good, unless a follower (in good standing with Twitter) retweets my posts with all my #hashtags intact.

The best way to work around this kind of Twitter slap is to create another account with different bio text and a different bio link. Then, that account can be used to retweet all the important tweets and those with #hashtags from a slapped account.

Have your own stories or comments? Please share them below. :-)

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