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.

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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.

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Larry BraunerIn establishing social media and business networking connections, quality matters more than quantity, but only to a limited extent.

Admittedly, 100 quality business connections are superior to 400 random ones. I cannot dispute that. However, it’s rarely the either-or proposition that quantity vs. quality suggests.

For example, you connect with 500 people whom you carefully select, and you hope that all will be great connections. You later discover that 100 are fine connections and that the remaining 400 are questionable ones. Of your 100 fine connections, 20 really shine, but only four of them become clients or employees.

Quantity a Prerequisite for Quality

The 80/20 RuleThat’s how networking and prospecting work. Consider it a process of elimination or an outcome of the 80/20 Rule.

Beware of those who discount quantity in their quest for quality business contacts. In practice, they end up with neither one, since quantity is a prerequisite for quality.

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Larry BraunerYou are using your Facebook personal profile for business despite 7 Issues to Consider About Doing Business on Facebook and despite advice dispensed in ONE Facebook Business Page, No More, No Fewer.

Alternatively, you’re preparing to convert your Facebook personal profile using the new Facebook personal profile to Facebook business page migration tool.

FacebookIn either case, you’d benefit from acquiring additional Facebook friends who share an interest in your business niche. Here are 10 tips that will help you add Facebook business friends:

  1. Choosing Facebook Friends Wisely - Don’t invite random people. It’s a waste of time and a waste of your 5,000 Facebook friend quota.
  2. Staying out of Trouble - Don’t send invitations in rapid succession or invite people whose privacy settings are very restrictive. If there’s no message button, not much information or wall posts showing, or if Facebook questions whether you really know the person, move on.
  3. Introducing Yourself - Include a short message, such as “Hi. I’m a ballooning enthusiast and author of the book, “Avoiding Deflation.”
  4. People You Know in Real Life - Ask your business colleagues if they’re on Facebook or search for them.
  5. LinkedIn Connections - Do the same with LinkedIn networking connections who share an interest in your business niche.
  6. Twitter Profiles - Search Twitter accounts for interesting people. Then check whether they’re on Facebook. Start your conversations in 140 characters and then transfer them to Facebook.
  7. Facebook Research - Facebook groups, pages,your Home page, etc., are all places to find lots of potential friends.
  8. Friend Suggestions - Here’s the best part of all: If you add friends carefully,  Facebook will reward you by recommending favorable choices for friends.
  9. Engage Your Facebook Friends - Engage your Facebook friends in conversations, and you’ll get to know those of their friends who join in.
  10. Don’t Be Afraid to Unfriend - If for any reason you’re questioning why someone is your Facebook friend, the Unfriend link on his or her profile is waiting impatiently for you to click on it. (If you do that to me, however, I won’t ever forgive you.)

I recently added many devoted watch enthusiasts and industry insiders to my roster of Facebook business friends using these ideas.

Don’t hesitate leave a comment — and if you’re new to my blog, I invite you to subscribe and like my Facebook page.

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Larry BraunerThe successful LinkedIn IPO last week seems to indicate that investors expect business networking and content curation giant LinkedIn to grow within its niche despite increasing Facebook domination of the social web.

By maintaining a business focus, LinkedIn’s growth could persist unhampered by that of its social networking counterpart. For this reason, many articles have been written of late presenting strategies and techniques to maximize LinkedIn effectiveness, including my own 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking.

LinkedIn Strategy and Technique

LinkedInThe following 18 articles explore a wide range of viewpoints, and they will hopefully help you to formulate and implement your LinkedIn plan:

  1. The LinkedIn IPO: Why it matters to your day-to-day
  2. Web Success in the LinkedIn Era
  3. How LinkedIn Changed The Way I Do Business
  4. LinkedIn Beginner Tips
  5. Social Networking: LinkedIn vs. Facebook
  6. 7 Steps To Help You Build Your Personal Brand On LinkedIn
  7. 10 Ways to Maximize LinkedIn for Personal Branding
  8. LinkedIn Strategies for Personal Branding
  9. How to get Recommendations on LinkedIn
  10. How to Drive Traffic from LinkedIn
  11. HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Advanced Social Media Search
  12. How to Make the Most from LinkedIn Company Pages
  13. LinkedIn Business Profiles: Add Admins to Your Company’s Profile
  14. Is your sensitive company info being leaked on LinkedIn?
  15. Cultivating Meaningful LinkedIn Connections
  16. Building Solid Business Relationships Using LinkedIn
  17. LinkedIn Marketing
  18. 10 Top LinkedIn Open Networkers and Connectors to Follow in 2011

I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn. My email address is in my LinkedIn profile, should you need it.

Please subscribe and “like” my Facebook page, too. :-)

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Larry BraunerI recently revealed my top 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking and 16 Tips for Ning Social Networking.

I’ve also written Top 16 Reasons I Like Facebook More Than Twitter and 10 Simple Ideas for Setting Up a New Twitter Business Account.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. You and I both know that there’s much more to business networking than engaging on business networking sites. Effective business networking calls for a wide range of skills and resources.

Business Networking Strategies

Business NetworkingI asked just last week, How Much Real Networking on Social Networking Sites?

Frankly, I believe that there’s too little real business networking either online or off.

For this reason, I present you with a long — although far from complete — list of business networking strategies, hoping that you’ll find an idea or two that you can implement to your advantage.

Here are 22 business networking strategies:

  1. Always Be Networking - Every person you meet has the potential to introduce you to others in his or her network. Try to meet people every day.
  2. Networking is not Prospecting - Don’t treat all people as prospects. Your job is to develop some degree of relationship with each person you meet. This aspect of networking is explained in depth in Tommy Spaulding’s It’s Not Just Who You Know, which characterizes five levels of relating and explains the hows and whys of each.
  3. Network with Networkers - Business networking enables you to meet people whom you don’t already know. The networking concept is very well explained in Jim Randel’s The Skinny on Networking. Many of the people you’ll meet won’t have the inclination to share their networks with you. Don’t sweat it. Simply move on.
  4. Cast a Wide Net - Try not to prejudge people. All people have merit, and you never know who’ll provide you with a valuable referral. Targeting is a useful marketing concept, but in business and social networking, it’s possible to carry the targeting concept too far.
  5. Determine What You Want - If you don’t know what you want, how will you be able to tell others what you want? Not only that, you’ll be like a Sunday driver going from here to there without an intended destination. Become clear about where you want to go but be prepared to adjust your business networking course as you go along.
  6. Know Whom You Want to Meet - You need to know whom you want to meet, so that the members of your business or social network can help you meet such people.
  7. Fish Where the Fish Are - Join business networking sites and attend business networking events where you can connect with potential prospects and plenty of serious networkers.
  8. Focus on Giving, not Taking - I recommend that you read Bob Burg and John David Mann’s The Go-Giver. The importance of giving and receiving, not taking, extends far beyond business networking. You can become a powerful resource for your network! This blog is one of my ways of giving and being a resource.
  9. Be a Perfectionist - With key contacts, you can’t afford to be even a little sloppy. Polish your personal appearance, refine your business networking profiles and craft your communications, so that you’ll always make a great impression. We can’t be perfect, but we must at least do our very best.
  10. Strive for Consistency - Don’t rely on short intermittent bursts of activity in business networking or in other areas of your life. It’s hard to cram for tests, but it’s even harder to cram for relationships.
  11. Diversify - Don’t put all your business networking eggs in too few baskets. Be on the lookout for new and creative ways to meet people.
  12. Go the Extra Distance - When you think you’ve done all you can, see if you can do a bit more.
  13. Use Your Time Effectively - You can’t hope do everything, so employ the 80/20 rule and prioritize your business networking initiatives.
  14. Stay Organized - Keep a record of your business contacts’ names and personal information, as well as a log of your interactions with them. Find an approach that’s feasible for you.
  15. Pick Up the Phone - Get more personal. Use the phone, Skype and face-to-face meetings to make a close connection with your contacts and business networking partners.
  16. Build Your Network Online and Off - Don’t network exclusively either online or offline. Read Ivan Misner, David Alexander and Brian Hillard’s Networking Like a Pro. Besides being a master networker, Ivan Misner is Founder and Chairman at BNI, a business networking organization that spans the globe. It’s critical to recognize the need for business networking both online and off.
  17. Do not Abuse or Spam a Your Contacts - Aggressive behavior online or off will kill your chances of building a network and earn you a bad reputation.
  18. Don’t Waste Time with Overly Skeptical People - Preach only to the choir. If someone doesn’t get it, don’t try make him or her get it. Talk to somebody else.
  19. Learn from the Experts - There are many excellent networking books, such as the ones I mention here. Books, seminars and the people we meet have much to teach us about business networking, our vocational fields — and life.
  20. Build Your Network before You Need It - Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty is an oldie but a goodie. It takes a long time to grow a business or social network. If you wait until you need a business network before you start building it, you’ll regret your decision to delay.
  21. Be Authentic - Real people want to network and conduct business with those who are completely genuine and transparent.
  22. Follow Through - Follow up quickly and appropriately on business networking referrals. When people give you referrals, your actions reflect on them. Respect that and your referrals will grow.

Most people have business networks of manageable size. If you have an especially large network, you can hire a virtual assistant or an  outbound call center outsourcing to help you contact your network. Good outbound call centers have a wide breadth of relationship management experience and expertise that they can share.

Now it’s your turn. As I said earlier, this list is “far from complete.” What are some of your favorite business networking tips?

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

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

Bigger Long-Term SEO Objectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ning Network Groups

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

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

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

Connecting One-to-One

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

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

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

Wishing you a successful year. :-)

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Larry BraunerAs an entrepreneur or small business owner promoting your business on Facebook, you face a number of difficult challenges and tough marketing decisions.

Here are seven key issues to consider when networking and marketing your business on Facebook:

  1. Facebook profile pages are intended for networking with family and friends and not for business networking, and you can’t separate your personal and business networking on Facebook. Your family and personal friends are being irritated by business posts showing up in their News Feeds, while at the same time business connections are eavesdropping on your personal conversations.
  2. By connecting directly with business associates and total strangers on Facebook, you compromise the privacy of your family and friends, which is already much too limited. Your loved ones become “friends of friends” with your business connections and consequently more exposed to their scrutiny. If you’ll decline the invitations of family and personal friends to connect in order to protect them, you’ll surely have an enormous amount of explaining to do.
  3. You can’t legitimately set up a profile for personal use and one for business. Having multiple Facebook profiles is against Facebook’s Terms of Service. I haven’t done so, and I do not recommend that you do so either, unless you’re ready to risk deletion of both your Facebook profiles.
  4. Lack of privacy extends far beyond family and personal friends. Each of your business connections become “friends of friends” with all your other Facebook business connections and therefore more exposed and at-risk — something most Facebook users do not realize. This explains why Facebook business networking is suspect, and why Facebook demands that you connect only with people you know.
  5. If you aggressively grow your business network on Facebook, you risk having your Facebook account suspended. Proceed carefully.
  6. Facebook fan pages are more useful for marketing large businesses than small ones, since they won’t help to build your web presence unless, to some degree, you already have a web presence. Haven’t you noticed how many Facebook business pages barely have the 25 fans needed to claim their Facebook name? Business networking on Facebook is a way to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” but it’s also problematic and at best a slow process. A big businesses also has the marketing budget to create compelling Facebook applications.
  7. Twitter, Ning networks and search engine optimized blog sites are better for building your web presence than Facebook. Once you have a web presence, you can easily grow your Facebook page fan base with well-placed Facebook widgets and links. The main point is that you’ll need to reach far beyond Facebook to develop a following for your business, the kind of following that big brands already have.

FacebookIn the future, I’ll continue to explore ways in which businesses can build their web presences on and off Facebook, but for now, keep in mind that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Or in a week or in a month.

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Larry BraunerBusiness networking sites enable you to make business connections, and through their networking and marketing tools, business networks also facilitate personal branding and online business marketing.

This article discusses features of Ning networks. However, many Ning features are also available on other business networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Ning Social NetworksThe following are 10 facilities of Ning networks that used in concert will help you build a powerful personal brand and effectively market your business:

  1. Your Ning Profile - Your profile is your mini web page on social and business networks. It ought to portray you in the best possible light as explained in How Important is Making a Good First Impression Online? Therefore, carefully complete your profile info and include a smart looking personal photo. It boggles my mind the number of networkers who barely fill in their network profiles. For an example of a simple complete profile, view mine at the Small Business Network.
  2. Business Networking - The single best way to network both offline and online is to check people out and ask them to tell you more about themselves. Never spam them! The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel is a brief and excellent business networking guide.
  3. Blogs - Using blogs, you publicly express your views, stake claims to keywords and interact with readers via comments. When you blog on Ning networks, readers on-site don’t have far to go to find your posts, and because your content is aggregated by search engines with related content on the site, it’s easier for you and others to rank well on top keywords. To succeed blogging, post original search engine optimized articles that link to off-site and on-site sources. Don’t post snippets and don’t post articles that read like ads.
  4. Discussions - Discussion forums encourage people to share ideas in response to a simple question or statement. You can use discussions to get conversations going without writing whole articles. Be creative.
  5. Groups - Used correctly, groups are the most powerful branding and marketing tool on Ning networks. Group owners build communities and engage members through both discussions and newsletters — a bit like Facebook pages and Facebook groups combined. Before starting a Ning group, be ready to recruit off-site colleagues and use blogs and discussions to attract site members. I notice many starting groups and waiting for people to join with limited or no success.
  6. Events - Offline and online events are mini calls to action that can build and sustain momentum. Ning allows you to post events and members to respond. Share your events both on-site and off-site for optimal results.
  7. Comments - Your participation through commenting on others’ content and joining in conversations has a strong branding effect. People can get to know you through your comments. You have lots of time to compose your comments. Use that time wisely!
  8. Embedded Videos - Videos add a valuable dimension to your content on Ning and off Ning, as well. With a little practice you can quickly embed them in your blogs and discussions.
  9. Uploaded Photos - A picture is worth a thousand words. Upload pictures and label them so that people can appreciate them.
  10. Status Updates - Status updates are still a half-baked Ning feature, but use them anyway, since you never know who might be reading them.

I created and moderate the Small Business Network Ning site, Open Networking and Lifetime Learning for Small Business Owners and Their Clientele. Please join me there.

I also moderate a group at the My Linking Power Forum Ning network, It’s About Linking Power!

If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to subscribe. :-)

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Larry BraunerI received a free review copy of the newly published book, The Skinny on Networking: Maximizing the Power of Numbers by success coach Jim Randel. However, every opinion expressed in this article is completely my own.

Not Your Typical Business Networking Book

The Skinny on Networking is not like other business networking books I’ve read. The Skinny on Networking is unique in at least five ways:

  1. The Skinny on Networking is written as a short entertaining story, and all of the book’s characters (including author Jim Randel) are adorable (skinny) stick figures.
  2. While The Skinny on Networking is a how-to book, its mission is to illuminate basic business networking principles rather than to serve as a comprehensive business networking guide.
  3. You can read The Skinny on Networking in about an hour and obtain a quick business networking overview. Then, each subsequent rereading will help deepen your appreciation of business networking concepts and plant them more firmly in your mind.
  4. The Skinny on Networking draws from the works and expertise of such business networking masters as Harvey Mackay and Ivan R. Misner, who are frequently quoted.
  5. The Skinny on Networking explores both offline and online business networking and the connection between the two.

The Skinny on Networking Story

The Skinny on Networking by Jim RandelThe main characters in The Skinny on Networking are Billy, a high school history teacher who’d much prefer to teach music at a college, his wife Beth, a lawyer hoping to find new clients despite her shyness, and Jim Randel, their savvy business networking coach.

Jim teaches networking to Billy and Beth and helps them step-by-step to overcome obstacles and advance in their careers.

Business Networking Concepts

The Skinny on Networking develops and illustrates the application of many business networking concepts, which include the power of numbers, diversifying contacts, maintaining a long-term perspective, creating and using social capital, and the importance of reciprocity.

My favorite is social capital, “the strength of a relationship you have with another person,” as defined by Jim, who adds, “You create social capital by building on a relationship.”

In the past, I’ve thought of social capital as accumulated goodwill.  The social capital you have determines what you can reasonably expect to request from another person without damaging your relationship.

The Skinny on The Skinny on Networking

If you’re looking to achieve greater business networking success and open to new networking ideas, I strongly recommend that you read The Skinny on Networking: Maximizing the Power of Numbers by Jim Randel.

I look forward to networking with you on my new Ning business network, Small Business Networking.

Hope to see you there. :-)

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