Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

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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 Brauner
Everything defies measurement and tracking. Everything, really.

Try recording your food intake. If you’re an emotional eater, committing your diet to paper ought to make you feel quite uncomfortable. However, even if you eat normally, listing your meals poses the following interesting problem:

Because you’re making a list of your meals and snacks, you’ll tend to make healthier eating choices than you would otherwise make. You may eat less or more than usual. Therefore, the items on your list will not represent your typical food intake. Rather, they’ll be biased.

Tracking the Untrackable

For several years, I worked as a business analyst at IDT Corporation.

One of several areas responsibility at IDT was analyzing advertising tracking data, partly in order to evaluate each advertising purchase, and partly to in order to determine the net value of each customer (after factoring out the cost of acquiring that customer).

Given our level of sophistication, tracking the new customers by marketing channel should have been straightforward. Nevertheless, there was a major problem: Our new customer defied tracking.

A different toll-free telephone number and a different web address was used for each newspaper, magazine, television station, radio station and direct mail piece. When a customer called the toll-free number or visited the web site, we knew how the customer was referred to us.

Well, sort of. The problem was that the customer didn’t always behave as we had hoped.

No matter which phone number or web address the customer was given, that customer sometimes found it more convenient to obtain the phone number by calling Information or going online, and to bypass their assigned web address, going to the company’s main website instead.

We called such a customer “untrackable” and were forced to make the best assumptions we could to deal with the untrackables in our analyses.

Tracking Twitter

I can provide many examples of tracking and measurement difficulties, especially from my years working in marketing research at Eric Marder Associates, but not to bore you too much, I’ll jump now to my discussion of Twitter.

My thoughts on Twitter will apply in varying degrees to Facebook and other social sites as well. I break down the measurement and tracking of Twitter traffic into these eight parts:

  1. You need to realize that much activity on the Internet, and on Twitter specifically is generated by cyber robots or plain bots. They tweet the majority of updates on Twitter, and they account for more than 90% of the traffic that flows through the links in Twitter posts.
  2. While some techies may be very interested in bot activity, most of us are simply interested in counting and tracking human clicks on our links. We need to separate out and count only real clicks by real peeps.
  3. Realize too that most humans access Twitter from desktop and mobile clients, not from the Twitter domain. (The extent to which this is true depends on the particular audience you’re targeting.)
  4. Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Clicky, do exclude bot traffic from their stats. However, they do not know how to break down and allocate the so-called direct traffic coming from users’ desktops and mobile devices. In web analytics, direct traffic is the untrackable element which I discussed above in connection with my work at IDT. Nevertheless, do not rely on the stats from your site’s log. Install and use Google Analytics and Clicky in your blog or website. I use both myself. (For my Wordpress blog, I use the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin, and I installed the Clicky script in a sidebar.)
  5. Web untrackables come to websites in many different ways, such as directly typing a website address, selecting browser bookmarks, using a variety of desktop and mobile clients like TweetDeck, and even clicking on a link in an e-mail program such as Microsoft Outlook. Try and get a sense of where your direct traffic comes from.
  6. Rules of thumb provide no more than ball park estimates, and these crude approximations are often inadequate. Use rules of thumb only as a last resort.
  7. You can substitute tracked links in your tweets, but tracked links generally count bot traffic. However, BudUrl from Live Oak 360 has begun counting only human clicks. Great news! While their links can’t be generated automatically by TweetDeck, if you’re serious about tracking, you’ll put up with the inconvenience. Not every tweet will have a link, and not every link will need to be tracked.
  8. Even if you use BudUrl as I recommend, there’s still one more thing defying measurement, the Twitter user who replaces your link with theirs in order to track their retweet or because they prefer another shortening link. No way around this one! Remember, “Everything defies measurement and tracking.”

I count the comments made on each article. Don’t you defy measurement and tracking. :-P

Share your ideas below in a comment. :-)

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Since Twitter Lists Beta Observations and Tips one month ago, Twitter completed the roll out of Twitter Lists to all its users.

Twitter members have been occupied with building and following lists, while the pundits have been occupied with observing and dissecting them (the lists of course, not the members). :-P

Twitter ListsThe reaction in the blogosphere has been somewhat mixed. 9 Reasons Why You Should Be In Love with Twitter Lists (RotorBlog) was very upbeat. Twitter Lists Are Not About Discovery (Regular Geek) was more skeptical.

A new social media site, Listorious, has surfaced to helps us discover Twitter lists for categories which are important to us. How splendid this is! I’ll explain why.

Realizing the Potential of Web 2.0

Twitter comes along and lets anybody who’s connected to the Net (even a bot) create a user account and add text messages (tweets) to the Twitter message stream. Simultaneously, Twitter lets users subscribe to messages in the Twitter stream.

Twitter is a good example of Web 2.0, i.e. people creating and sharing web content.

Twitter becomes popular. Millions of messages from millions of people start flowing downstream. The social media community asks, “How will all these messages be organized?”

Twitter responds, permitting users to create and share lists of Twitter users. These Twitter lists are another form of Web 2.0 content. The community wonders, “How will all these lists be organized?”

Listorious appears, and using the Twitter API,  provides a platform for users to create and share Twitter meta lists (lists of Twitter lists). These meta lists are yet more Web 2.0 content.

Suddenly, we’re realizing the potential of Web 2.0, the social web, on a large scale. We’re creating, sharing and organizing our own web of information.

How I Use Twitter Lists

I use Twitter Lists both to organize people I find on Twitter and to discover new people.

I have 20 Twitter lists of my own, some private, to which I assign people, and I explore Twitter and Listorious to find new lists of Twitter people.

For example, I like lists of public relations people and companies, because in many ways, my skills are a strong match for PR firms. I let Twitter lists help me locate and connect with organizations and people working in the PR and communications industry.

When I find a list I like, I follow it. I certainly don’t want to lose track of it. I assign many people in the list to my own lists too.

I also follow most of the people. I hope that they’ll check out my blog and decide to follow me back. Perhaps they’ll even subscribe while they’re here.

In Conclusion

The way Twitter Lists have greatly extended the functionality of Twitter is cool. So is the way that Twitter Lists fit nicely into Web 2.0 social media paradigm. Critics can say what they wish about Twitter lists but cannot diminish their usefulness to me (and to my readers).

Okay. We’ve reached the point in the post where you usually comment. ;-)

What do you like or dislike about Twitter Lists? How would you improve them if you were Twitter?  What are some of your favorite Twitter lists?

Follow @larrybrauner on Twitter. :-)

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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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Last week, Twitter released a beta version of Twitter Lists, “a great way to organize the people you follow and discover new and interesting accounts.”

“Beta” implies that there are still some rough edges, and tweaks are to be expected. It also implies that you might not yet have access to Twitter Lists.

Undoubtedly this article still has some rough edges as well and revisions are to be expected. ;-)

So what are Twitter Lists all about?

Twitter ListsFacebook has lists that let you organize your friends. Twitter Lists enable you to do much more than that. This brand new Twitter tool adds an entirely new and exciting dimension to Twitter.

Twitter Lists presents new targeting opportunities, and may also create new online social networking possibilities. We’ll know more once the feature is fully tested and rolled out.

Twitter Lists Observations

Here are five ways in which Twitter Lists and Facebook lists are similar:

  1. You categorize people and assign them to one or more lists. A person may belong to many lists or to none. The choice is totally yours.
  2. You create and name your lists, and you can edit its name even after the list has been established.
  3. You manage your lists and can add and remove people whenever you wish.
  4. Facebook lists and any Twitter list which you make private are known only to you, the list creator.
  5. You can view status updates and posts that are limited to the people you assigned to a particular list, making it easier to follow categories of people such as family or business contacts.

Here are five ways in which Twitter Lists and Facebook lists differ:

  1. All Facebook lists are private. However, on Twitter you can also create public lists to share with other members.
  2. People can easily tell to which public Twitter lists they’ve been assigned and who assigned them by clicking on the “listed” link on any of their account pages. Here’s my listed link (assuming that you can access it).
  3. On Facebook you can add only friends (or invited friends) to your lists. On Twitter you can add anybody as long as that person hasn’t protected his or her updates. Consider Twitter Lists to be a new method for following people.
  4. You can use Facebook lists to limit access to parts of your profile. This doesn’t apply to Twitter lists. Your brief Twitter profile is public and is visible to everybody, even to people who do not belong to Twitter.
  5. Not only can you view updates limited to the people you assigned to a particular Twitter list, you can do the same with anybody else’s Twitter list which you follow. Once you follow somebody’s list, you can access the updates for that list (as well as any of your own lists) using the lists menu on your Twitter sidebar. By the way, it’s okay to be nosy, so don’t feel guilty about it!

Twitter Lists Tips

Here are nine Twitter tips for maximizing your use of Twitter Lists:

  1. Look around to see how people are using Twitter Lists and in which lists they’ve been listed. You’ll get a good sense of how Twitter Lists work and a bunch of ideas for lists you can create yourself.
  2. Experiment. While you run the risk of driving other people crazy, you are free to make as many changes to your Twitter lists as you wish.
  3. You can add yourself to your own lists which useful for when people follow your lists.
  4. Instead of following somebody else’s Twitter list, often it will make more sense to select people from that list and assign them to your own list. That gives you some control and flexibility. However, keep in mind that when people are added to that person’s list in the future, your list will not update automatically.
  5. Be careful when assigning people to public Twitter lists. Don’t offend them (unless of course you’re an antisocial type of person). They might retaliate by assigning you to a list of jerks or dorks or even worse. At present, Twitter lists can’t be altered by the people listed. Twitter will have to take action if (when?) behavior problems surface.
  6. On the other hand, use your Twitter lists to communicate thoughts about people in a constructive way. Assign them to a public Twitter list of cool peeps or to a list of experts in a niche. Do this even (or especially) to people who don’t follow you!
  7. Do anything you want with private Twitter lists just as you would with Facebook lists. If you want a Twitter list of nerds or spammers, keep it private or face likely retaliation. You probably don’t want to make your “little black book” public either.
  8. You can start off by making a Twitter list private and later switch it to public and vice versa.
  9. Have fun, but set limits, as Twitter Lists can be addictive. Don’t let Twitter Lists become an obsession (unless you happen to be looking for a new obsession).

I’m @larrybrauner on Twitter. Assign me to any funky Twitter lists, and you’ll live to regret it. :-P

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Larry Brauner
I read an excellent article this afternoon in the Wall Street Journal by Jessica E. Vascellaro about the declining role of e-mail in our day-to-day communication, as services like Twitter, Facebook and lots of other social networking sites continue to grow in popularity.

According to Ms. Vascellaro, we obviously still use email. However, email was better suited to the way we used the Internet in the past, when we’d go online intermittently to read our messages.

“Now we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.”

E-mail MarketingIf more of our attention is being directed toward social media and away from email, is there a future for email marketing?

The success of email marketing depends on our ability to efficiently reach our target markets via their email inboxes. As people increasingly turn to social media, and internet service providers apply more aggressive spam filtering, email marketing becomes less viable.

Just last night, a friend messaged me on Facebook saying that she was “shifting over from an e-newsletter to blogging,” and that she was looking for a little advice.

Email marketers want to know how to react to the trend toward social media and social marketing.

Advice for Email Marketers

Here are seven tips for coping with the decline in email communication:

  1. Act Now - Don’t sit on the sidelines like your old media friends. There are still plenty of newspaper publishers scratching their heads wondering what they’re going to do about their failing businesses.
  2. Diversify - Adopt a variety of new social marketing channels, but do not discontinue your email marketing campaigns. Build on your past successes.
  3. Stay Cool - Don’t overreact. Email communication isn’t going away any time soon. Gradually make adjustments and find the allocation of resources that delivers you the best ROI.
  4. Learn Social Media - There are many social marketing resources and a fairly steep social media learning curve. Either make social media training a priority for yourself and stick with it or find someone to whom you can delegate or outsource all or part of it.
  5. Learn SEO - Learn search engine optimization as well, or again, delegate or outsource it.
  6. Keep Testing - Just as you’d test different lists or advertising copy, test different social media venues and content to determine what works for you, and what doesn’t. Be flexible.
  7. Get Help - Even if you do decide to educate yourself, look to social media and web marketing experts for help along the way. Their guidance will save you much time and money in the long run.

I still use my email autoresponder to communicate with many of my blog subscribers. However, email accounts for only 2% of my total blog traffic. Google, Entrecard and Twitter combined account for about 80%, and all other sources add to the remaining 18%.

I will have more to say on email marketing and on list building in future articles. I suggest meanwhile that you read List Building Paradigm Shift which I wrote at the beginning of the year.

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Larry BraunerConnecting with your target audience on Twitter is difficult, and with all the bots and spammers joining the site, it’s getting to be more and more difficult to find real people each day.

Let me share a targeting example with you.

Suppose that you want to locate wine enthusiasts. You happen to find my Twitter profile through Twitter Grader or a similar program, because I have identified myself as a wine lover in my bio.

You decide to follow all the people who follow me reasoning correctly that many of them are also wine lovers. If you’re lucky, a few hundred of them are real wine enthusiasts, and they will follow you back as soon as you follow them.

All this sounds good, but there’s one tiny little problem.

If you follow all the 30,000 people who follow me, you’ll have to follow –  and subsequently unfollow — the more that 29,000 people who follow me but know as little about fine wine as a politician tends to know about ethical conduct.

There has to be a more efficient approach. Don’t you think?

Searching Twitter Profiles

There are quite a few Twitter tools that search through profiles and tweets. I like TweepSearch, since it searches profile bios but at the same does its best to sort the results by the time since the most recent tweet, making it easier to locate active Twitter users.

When you log in through Twitter, TweepSearch shows you whom you’re already following and enables you to follow, unfollow or block people within the search results.

You can limit your search to followers of a particular Twitter member or search through everybody. In other words, you could search the profiles of my followers to find the wine lovers among them, or you could search the whole Twitter database for wine lovers.

You’ll have to play with TweepSearch and other Twitter resources and search tools until you find the ones that best suit your needs.

Automated Twitter Tools

There are a variety of Twitter tools that help you identify your target market and do all the following and unfollowing for you. Since I am following and unfollowing many people and managing several Twitter accounts for clients, I decided to experiment with one of these tools, a cute program called TweetAdder.

TweetAdder searches through profiles or tweets for keywords and can search by U.S. postal code too. It creates, saves and manages a list of target users for you to follow at a reasonable pace which you specify. The program isn’t free, but they do provide a limited version for free, so that you can see how it works before you buy it.

I like that TweetAdder works in the background while I perform other tasks, and that the vendor doesn’t make all sorts of hypey claims. They encourage proper use of the TweetAdder tool.

Twitter Style Networking

I must at least mention the natural approach to adding followers and making connections — slowly and methodically through careful examination of bios and retweeted updates. This is how I was taught, by purists no doubt, when I first started using Twitter.

I consider this approach much too slow to use for social marketing, and you don’t really want to spend all your time on Twitter.

Or do you? ;-)

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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?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web.

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