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 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 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 BraunerMembers of my two new business networking sites have started to implement their personal business networking strategies on each site. As a member of both, it’s fascinating to watch each site begin to develop a distinctive identity.

NY Business Networking is regional in scope and therefore conducive to promoting offline events and arranging face-to-face meetings in the NYC Tri-State Area.

Small Business Networking doesn’t have a geographical orientation and consequently seems better suited to blogging, on-site special interest groups and web-based instruction. I’m offering a free step-by-step social media training on this site, and you are welcome to enroll.

Come sign up for either or both of my new business networking sites and join me at the grand opening party.

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Larry BraunerThis is my final online event of the summer. I’m kicking my new business networking site with some fresh ideas, and you’re invited to the party.

While I encourage you to join one my new site, you’ll also have to be a member of Facebook to participate in all the festivities.

Here are six steps to follow (please read carefully):

  1. Start by joining Small Business Networking. If you can’t sign up, have a look at Ning Sign-Up Glitch Frustrates Users.
  2. Fill in your profile completely, including My Current Networking Objectives, which you’ll use when you introduce yourself at the event. Add a profile picture, avatar or logo. Picture are best, since people like to network with real people with real faces.
  3. Go to my Facebook business pagenot my profile page.
  4. Share the link to your new business profile. (If you join both sites, share one link one day and the other another day.) Include your current networking objectives in the comment area by pasting that information from your new business profile. (Enclose it in quotes if you like.) Press the share button, and your update will appear on my page.
  5. Now share that with your Facebook friends. Click on the share link, and write in the comment area why you joined a new site and ask your friends to connect with you there.
  6. Go back to my Facebook business page and visit with the other people who’ve posted there. You may want to add some of them as Facebook friends and friends on the new business site.

New Business Networking Sites Grand Opening Party Watch for an announcement on Thursday about the party’s grand finale.

If any of my instructions don’t make complete sense, I accept full responsibility. Sometimes (often?) I’m a bit too complicated. :(

We can resolve any questions in the comment area of this blog post. See you at the party. Be there or be… :-P

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Larry BraunerThe beta test of my new Ning business networking site has uncovered a troublesome glitch in the Ning sign- up system that makes it more difficult for new members to join.

A new member trying to sign up gets a Ning error message rejecting the inputted password, even though the person has never even registered for the new site!

What’s happening is that Ning recognizes the user’s email from when that person joined another Ning site at a time in the past, and now Ning expects the same password previously associated with that email.

When new members can’t remember their old passwords, trouble begins, because every attempt to reset it will be unsuccessful. Registration hasn’t been completed, therefore the new site will be unable to reset the password. Catch-22!

How to Deal with the Ning Problem

Here are four ways to deal with the Ning glitch:

  1. Try very hard to remember or figure out your old password. You’ll be able to change it later.
  2. Try to register with an email address you’ve never ever used before on Ning.
  3. Reset your password at the Ning site. After resetting your password, ignore Ning’s invitation to set up a new site, and go directly to register for the site where you encountered the problem. Reset Your Ning Password ACCEPTED SOLUTION
  4. Wait who knows how long for Ning to fix the problem.

My new business networking site is Small Business Networking, serving entrepreneurs and small businesses worldwide. You don’t need to have a business to join. You can join for getting business ideas, searching for a new job or whatever else might make sense.

See you there, Ning permitting. :-P

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

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

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

Still a Long Way to Go

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

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

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

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

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Larry BraunerBusiness social networking flourished in ancient times. Anything you might have called technology had to have been very primitive. The now quaint Rolodex wasn’t invented until 1956.

With the invention of personal computers in the seventies,  people began storing contact information electronically using increasingly sophisticated software programs, such as Act!

Online Networking Emerges

Online social and business networking as we know it emerged in March 2003 when Friendster went live. I became a member of Ryze, my first business networking site, in November of that year. At age 51, I had become an early adopter of online social and business networking.

During the past seven years, countless social and business networking sites have appeared. In November ‘07, I started Online Social Networking in order to blog about effective use of these networking sites, which had already become part of the newer larger social media space.

Social and business networking sites are here to stay. The largest of the networking sites, Facebook, already boasts about half a billion users.

Social and Business Networking Changing

Business NetworkingAlthough all savvy online networkers strive to take their online relationships offline, off- and online networking integration has recently become a major phenomenon with location- based social media, such as Foursquare, and offline networking sites, such as Meetup, gaining every day in popularity.

I predict that mobile technology and mixed off- and online networking will dominate the social space for years to come and enrich it in exciting ways.

I’m creating my own niche at the intersection of off- and online business networking, and I hope to be able to tell you about it soon.

If you’re new, please subscribe. Comments are welcome. ;-)

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Larry Brauner

If you were looking for information about the Milky Way or perhaps something more entertaining like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I expect you’re a little disappointed.

This is an article about blogging.

In 2008,  Top 10 Blogging Success Factors and Top Reasons Why I Blog were well received.

The Blogger's GalaxyToday I want to acquaint you with top destinations in the blogging universe — not stars, comets or planets — not beaches or ski resorts — rather, objectives that every serious blogger ought to have — or consider adopting.

The purpose of blogging is to communicate with your readership, but let’s break it down into smaller actionable objectives.

Create Content

Every blog must have content that communicates something to readers. There are an ever increasing number of media in which to communicate besides plain text, such as:

  • Pictures or even slide shows
  • Audio — podcasts, music, etc.
  • Video
  • Charts or PowerPoint presentations
  • Polls, guest books or other engaging widgets
  • Talk radio shows, e.g. BlogTalkRadio, or conference calls, e.g. TalkShoe
  • Blog or website reviews

Choose the media that work best for your personality and subject matter.

When creating your content, be sure to ask these four questions:

  1. Is my content worth reading, viewing or listening to?
    If not, why bother posting it? When you think of good ideas, try and write them down.
  2. Is my content readable or understandable?
    I see too many blogs with bad formatting, spelling, syntax and grammar.
  3. Is my content worth linking to?
    Not every post will gather link love, but it’s something to keep in mind. If the content is good, relevant, well presented and easy to share, there’s a chance that readers will share it.
  4. Is my content search engine friendly?
    It should be, since search engines love blogs. It would be a shame not to take advantage of that.

Generate Traffic

These are my principal sources of blog traffic:

  • Asking friends and followers on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning to come read my articles — I was able to generate some traffic right away when I first got started
  • Other blogs and social media sites linking to my blog — takes time, but link building brings visitors and improves standing with the search engines
  • Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing send traffic if content is search engine friendly — and they seem to like blog posts with comments a lot
  • RSS and e-mail subscribers responding to notifications — over time I acquired a loyal readership

Read my past articles, and watch out for Facebook for Bloggers coming soon to a blog near you.

Build a Following

It takes time and substantial effort to acquire a loyal readership. Good relevant content, targeted traffic and an easy way to subscribe will over time yield results. All three factors are essential.

I discourage you from using the register feature of your blog. Registered users are not as good as subscribers. They’re hard to manage and to reach by e-mail.

I use a combination of Feedburner and Aweber to add subscribers, since Feedburner adds Aweber e-mail subscribers into its total count of readers.

My blog is the hub of my social media strategy:

  1. I build a following on social networking sites.
  2. I drive traffic to my blog.
  3. My blog builds relationships and strengthens my credibility.
  4. Readers revisit my blog.
  5. Readers comment on my blog and engage me through online social networking at social networking sites and other means.

Engage Your Readers

You engage your readers by encouraging them to communicate and share their ideas and questions:

  • to comment on your blog posts
  • to connect with you through social networking sites
  • to e-mail you
  • even to phone you!

When your readers communicate with you, you know you’re on the right track.

That’s it for now — the basic outline — but one final note:

If you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, you’ll need to bring your towel and watch out for Vogons, especially Vogons who spam blogs. They’re the worst kind.

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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Larry BraunerMy list of social and business networking sites is updated when online social networking changes occur. If I omitted sites you feel should be included, please leave a comment.

This article about top social and business networking sites is sponsored by the Small Business Network, a new social website for open business networking and lifetime business learning.

Social Networking Sites Becoming the Internet

The rapid growth of Facebook and Twitter the past several years has fueled much excitement and speculation among the public and within the business world.

Alexa ranks the world’s most popular websites. Eight social networking and business networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, hi5, Ning and Xing are ranked very highly overall among the world’s websites.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Ning networks are the most popular social networks with wide business appeal. From a business point of view, MySpace has become a niche site for the music industry.

Each social networking site is different. Choose a social network according to your individual or business networking objectives, as well as your personal style. Don’t base your choice solely upon site popularity, for each social networking site has a style and features that differentiate it from other social networking sites and contribute to its success.

Facebook

Read the Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet — and Keep Google Out, and you’ll  begin to appreciate ambitious scope of Facebook’s controversial plans, plans that have already started unfolding before our eyes.

The Facebook article has several important implications:

  • If Facebook succeeds, even partially, our influence and the content we post on Facebook will affect Facebook search results. In other words, we can to some extent impact the outcome of Facebook searches.
  • Facebook will evolve to compete both with Google and with other social networking sites. Facebook will implement powerful new features that enhance our networking experience.
  • To profit from an evolving Facebook, we must master Facebook now and start building our influence on the site.

I like the realness of Facebook. Most members use their actual names, provide factual information about themselves, and share interesting pictures, videos, and other content.

I also like the ease with which I can connect with my Facebook friends with a private message or a comment on their wall.

We’ve been discussing spam a lot lately. There’s a 5,000 friend limit on Facebook, so friend slots are precious. If a “friend” spams me, I remove him or her, unless of course it’s somebody I know from outside Facebook, in which case he or she gets an earful about spamming.

Twitter

Some people believe that Twitter is merely a fad. Not I. However, I’m not as confident in the future of Twitter as I am in the future of Facebook or LinkedIn.

For now, Twitter is growing, and it’s very useful if it’s used properly. I have created more traffic using Twitter than with all my other social networking sites and social media sites combined.

The ability to connect with and reach large groups of people makes Twitter attractive from a marketing perspective. I use a simple yet powerful tool that helps me connect with people and manage my profiles and those of my clients.

If you can reach your target market on Twitter and keep their interest, you will benefit enormously.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great business social networking site that is under new management.

LinkedIn’s potential lies in it’s many diverse and successful groups and their ongoing discussions. What better way to network than to participate in the discussions of groups that attract the types of people you want to meet?

You can also build up a very large network on LinkedIn which will enable you to communicate directly with the people you want without having to get past the usual gatekeepers. Members will also be able to search for and find you.

Ning Networks

I’ve written much recently about Ning networks. Many Ning social networking sites appeal to narrow niches, but others have broader appeal. Small Business Network is a new Ning network with a wide appeal.

I appreciate most a Ning network feature that is very controversial, the ability to share content with all Ning friends on a particular Ning network. I can write a blog post and share it easily with hundreds of friends.

Popularity of Social Networking Sites Isn’t Everything

While these are the most popular social networking sites, popularity isn’t everything. Less popular sites may offer you precisely the audience or the features you want. See also my list of social networking sites article from 2008 and my recent review of an excellent business networking book, The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel.

Please subscribe and join me on Facebook.

Most Popular Social and Business Networking Sites was most recently updated 28-Sep-2010 by Larry Brauner.

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