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

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

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

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

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

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Larry 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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Short Version of My Story

Today I tell some of my own story and share some of my own social media strategy.

This article is about an idea that was planted in my head and how I nurtured that idea. The article is slightly longer than usual, so please hang in there with me.

Creative problem solving has been a forte of mine since my teen years as a math whiz and chess champion. Once I began employment, I applied my problem solving capabilities to helping companies improve their business processes and getting a better handle on many different types of business and scientific data.

Thirty years into my career I learned about the social media and Web 2.0 revolution from Time Magazine’s BIG December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. I saw that, while I could no longer be one of the earliest adopters of social media, it wasn’t at all too late to position myself near the forefront of this enormous trend.

I had previously experienced and benefited to a small degree from online social networking and social networking sites such as Ryze and Direct Matches, but the Time article opened my eyes to possibilities greater than I’d previously imagined. I decided in January 2007, after reading the Time article, to master social media and to watch and see where that mastery would lead me.

Online Social Networking

Rather than try to master all social media at one time, I instead focused only on online networking and developed a first version of my online social networking strategy. These early conclusions, I based on my observations at MySpace, Direct Matches and Yuwie, social websites I have since rejected.

By September 2007, I was contemplating my next step.

Blogging and SEO

At MySpace and Yuwie I experimented with blogging. The next step was to start an independent blog, and I chose Wordpress.org as my platform in connection with web hosting at Go Daddy.

Before launching my Online Social Networking blog I spent months reading about blogging and search engine optimization, as well as conducting keyword research. The time invested paid off. I got started right, and keyword research become an important skill for me, as well.

I began blogging in November 2007 and devoted a year to learning how to write, promote and optimize my online publication. By October 2008 I no longer viewed myself as a novice blogger.

At present Online Social Networking has more than 350 Feedburner subscribers, receives 2,000+ search visits per month, and is ranked by Alexa in the top 100,000 websites.

Ning Social Networks and Twitter

First Ning networks and then Twitter captured my attention. These two social media platforms are powerful and growing rapidly in popularity.

Just as I’d done with my online social networking strategy, search engine optimization and blogging, I set out to master Ning and Twitter, writing articles on each that have since been read many times and featured by top news sites.

@larrybrauner on Twitter has 20,000+ followers, and thousands of users have already visited my blog.

“One Bite at a Time” Works

The key to my progress is internal motivation coupled with focus.

Rather than go off in too many directions and spread myself thin, I’ve applied the 80/20 Rule, taking one bite at a time out of the social media giant. This strategy has worked well for me and will work well for others too.

It’s March 2009. What will my next bite be?

FacebookStay tuned, but Facebook is at the top of my social marketing list, and along the way, I’m building my social media brand, helping clients, and looking for new ones.

We’ve now reached the point in the article where you subscribe to my blog and join my Facebook business page. ;-)

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Larry BraunerWhen Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini started their work on the Ning social network back in 2004, online social networking was still pretty much a teen thing. True there were marketers like yours truly making a home on Ryze and other business networking sites, but we were the exception rather than the rule.

Ning once completed would allow people to create and manage their own miniature MySpace-like social networking sites.

Ning’s founders probably envisioned a platform on which families and circles of friends would stay in close contact through their very own private social networking site. However, since launching 18 months ago, Ning has found its way into the business world as well as many other sectors of society.

You can start your own plain vanilla Ning social network for free, or for a fee you can exercise greater control over your site and add lots of bells and whistles.

Examples of Ning Social Networking Sites

In Web lifeline for the troops, the Naperville Sun writes that two local men, Ed Domain and Josh Lowe, launched Troop Space, a Ning-based networking site for the brave men and women of the United States Military. Troop Space “is geared toward US troops, their families and anyone who wants to become more personally connected to the military”.

Jim at medXcentral started his Ning community to network “the medical and health care universe” and to “stimulate great achievements and forward motion towards resolving many issues faced by the medical industry today”.

Diane Hochman built the online headquarters for My Private Classroom on the Ning foundation. I joined My Private Classroom several months ago to learn more about social media and to introduce free and low-cost marketing methods to network and direct marketers.

You can now participate in Diane’s social marketing training program for free. Read My Private Classroom Opens to Public for details.

I created the Ning social network Critical Thinking Outside the Box as a companion to this blog, and you are welcome to join me there.

What I Like About Ning Sites

From a user’s point of view here are some of my favorite Ning features:

  1. When you make a friend at one Ning site and you each belong to another Ning site, you’re connected at the other site too.
  2. You can browse friends and friends-of-friends and so forth to see what other Ning networks people belong to. In this way you can discover new and relevant places to network. While many Ning sites are private, there seem to be just as many sites that are open to the public. You can also browse Ning’s list of popular social networks.
  3. You can broadcast a message to all of your friends at any given Ning site. Be careful not to abuse this privelege. Spamming is not effective, and network administrators will typically not tolerate it. This broadcasting feature has allowed me to attract readers to my blog and gain new subscribers.
  4. In some Ning social networks you can also broadcast messages to fellow members of groups you join. This feature encourages spam and is therefore disabled on many Ning sites.
  5. You can customize your page’s theme and embed videos and widgets just as you might on MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  6. Much of your profile content can be taken from an existing site and easily reused when joining a new site.

And What I Don’t Like

Here are some of my least favorite Ning features:

  1. Most Ning sites have very small memberships that are just a little too cozy for marketers like me building their lists.
  2. A very high percentage of profiles are abandoned, so you can end up with lots of unaccepted friend requests. At some point you may need to delete some friend requests in order to remain eligible to make new requests.
  3. Very many Ning sites are not much more than recruiting pipelines and sales funnels for the sites’ owners. I find this aspect of Ning annoying, but I tolerate it. For this reason I’m slow to invite friends and business connections to join me on new Ning sites. I want to wait and see if the site is a safe enough place to bring them.

Show and Tell Opportuinity

You can find some of the many social networking sites to which I belong featured on my blog’s sidebar.

Do you have favorite Ning social networking sites? Have you started your own Ning social network? Do you have an interesting story to tell?

Feel free to comment and share with us.

Keep in mind that I’m responsible for the quality of my blog and legally responsible for its content. I therefore reserve the right to edit any comment as I see fit.

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Larry BraunerEven people who don’t go online and don’t understand social networking have heard of MySpace or Facebook, names that might conjure up fears of predators or identity theft.

However, that’s not my point.

My point is that MySpace and Facebook are so much talked about that they have pretty much become household names, and serious business networkers have or ought to have a presence at MySpace, Facebook and Linked In — and at other major social networking sites.

Many of the important online networking sites are listed for your convenience:

There are also industry specific sites. For example if your business is real estate related, consider joining ActiveRain Real Estate Network and Wanna Network, if you don’t already belong.

To find business networking sites specific to any industry, try plugging the industry name and the words “networking sites” into your favorite search engine.

But wait, the story doesn’t end here.

Smaller and newer business networking sites also deserve to be included in your online portfolio. After all, less can be more.

When Diane Hochman Zigs, I Zag

My Private ClassroomDiane Hochman, the founder and director of My Private Classroom for Marketers, often instructs, “Don’t Follow the Flock”. When others are zigging, you zag.

Diane is a Web 2.0 social media rock star. Many people follow her every move. They go where she goes. They do what she does. They zig when she zigs, and they zag when she zags.

People like Diane Hochman and Mike Dillard have their own flocks. Since I don’t want to follow the flock, nor live in somebody’s shadow, when Diane and Mike zig, I zag.

When they’re hanging at Facebook and Twitter, I’m chillin’ at one of the newer smaller sites such as Sta.rtUp.biz, a site that caters to small business entrepreneurs, or Natural Networkers, a social networking site for proponents of attraction marketing.

I might also be list building at Direct Matches or schmoozing at Yuwie, since they are not.

I think you get the general idea. It fits in with my online social networking strategy and my personal branding strategy. It’s common sense. I have plenty of room to maneuver.

You too might be best off charting a different course than your competition or industry leaders.

Choosing Business Networking Sites

There are many possible criteria for choosing business sites. However, at the end of the day it’s largely a matter of trial and error.

Nevertheless, let me share a few of my considerations with you. Perhaps I’ll share more in a future blog post.

Some social networking sites are funded by membership fees, some by advertising, and some by a combination of the two. I mainly prefer advertising supported sites. I’m not typically reaching out to a very elite crowd.

I do admit, I was a paid Executive Member at Direct Matches for three years. I highly valued the package of services they provided, and I appreciated Bill Weber’s personal touch. You can join Direct Matches for free.

I don’t pay to use any social networking sites at the present time. All the networking sites I use are either ad supported or offer free memberships that I find suitable.

Some networking sites make it easier to connect than others. I like to reach out to a large audience and prefer sites that make it easy for me to do that.

I like to be able to browse and add friends or contacts by demographic characteristics or by geographic location. When sites offer that option, it’s great. When they don’t, I look to a site’s groups or clubs to find people in my target market.

I recommend that you explore Ning social networking sites. While they do not support demographic browsing, but they are nevetheless very useful for business networking.

Short Lived Networking Feature

Some new social networking sites let me send mail to all my contacts or to all members of groups to which I belong. I love this capability and use it effectively without abusing or spamming.

I like to let lots of people know about my new blog posts. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d send links to useful information and thereby build my relationship with fellow members.

Unfortunately, as a networking site grows, spammers inevitably move in and ruin it for everybody. It’s impossible to keep a step ahead of them, so all sites eventually limit or eliminate this wonderful feature.

Don’t Let Spammers Ruin Your Day

I don’t like spammers and wish they’d stick with safelists or classified ads, but I don’t let them ruin my day, nor do I let them dissuade me from using any particular social networking site.

If I can cope with tailgaters and drivers who cut me off on the highway, I can surely cope with spammers.

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Larry Brauner

How I Use Social Networking Sites

I wouldn’t start a blog called Online Social Networking if I didn’t like social networking sites.

Let’s look at some of the ways that I use social networking sites to meet my business networking objectives.

Casting a Wide Net

I join a wide range of social networking sites. I know that even if I will not be active at a particular social site, the profile I set up there will add to my online presence. So if I like the site, I’ll become part of the community. If I don’t, there’s no harm. My profile will remain there as long as the site continues to operate.

When you Google me, you’ll find page after page of results that are me. What happens when people Google you?

Joining a bunch of social networking sites should jump start your web presence. It’ll give you some Google juice. Why not join some of my favorite social networking sites featured on my blog’s sidebar? As a plus, in most cases we’ll automatically be connected as “friends”.

Building Large Targeted Lists

When I like a social networking site, I settle in and become part of the community.

A winning strategy on nearly all social networking sites is to build a large targeted list of friends or contacts, generally the larger the better. Thousands are better than hundreds.

For some sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Yuwie there are friend adders, but I don’t like to use them. I prefer the personal touch, and I don’t want to risk losing my profile for suspected spamming. I spend a modest amount of time each day requesting new friends on each of my favorite social networking sites.

There are two ways that I target my requests.

On sites that allow profile browsing by specific demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, marital status, and parental status, I browse to find people to add.

On sites that have groups or clubs I browse the groups that are likely to attract the people I’m looking for.

I tend to accept nearly all add requests from others. I reject blatant spammers, men masquerading as women in order to attract favorable attention, and crazies.

Networking and Attraction Marketing

Social networking sites are meant for online social networking and not for advertising or spamming. They’re a great place to get to know people. You get to know people by asking them questions.

Please visit or revisit my earlier post, Social Networking vs. Advertising, for a full explanation of this absolutely crucial concept.

Social networking sites are also great from attraction marketing. Be the type of person you want to attract, and that person will be attracted to you.

Videos of you presenting useful information or explaining an important idea, not making a sales pitch, can showcase you as the knowledgeable leader you are.

Blogging is a big part of my branding strategy, so when I network online, I invite people to visit my blog, read, comment and register or subscribe. And many do.

I invite people I like on one social networking site to connect with me on another site. I don’t want to lose track of them if the first site closes down or if one of us happens to have his or her profile deleted. And yes, many do… connect that is.

At Direct Matches, I invite people to visit my profile page where I have a subscription form, and people can sign up for my training newsletter. And again, many do.

Every time people go along with my request, they’re opting in another time to our relationship. It’s sort of like dating.

Branding Yourself

Social networking sites, video sites and blogs are great for personal branding. In fact, your whole online presence can serve as a branding mechanism.

Craft your personal branding strategy and develop a web presence that is consistent with your strategy.

Being Consistent and Following Through

Possibly the most important online social networking strategy is to be consistent and follow through, not to expect instant results.

First you need to build your list, and then you need to gain credibility with the people on it.

When I’ve tried to push things, people sensed it. When I’ve been patient, people have often come to me, and what could be better than that?

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Larry BraunerBusiness Week in their June 2, 2008 cover story, Beyond Blogs, confessed that three years earlier when they wrote, Blogs Will Change Your Business, they completely missed the larger Web 2.0 social media trend that was emerging.

Business Networking Sites

While blogs have indeed transformed business, politics and publishing, online social networking at social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Linked In have impacted an even greater cross-section of businesses and people.

Many businesses have created their own in-house social networking sites to encourage and support staff collaboration.

Social Media Sites

YouTube, a site where regular people post their videos, has challenged the dominance of television in the entertainment and news industries.

Wikipedia, an encyclopedia developed and maintained by users, and wikis in general, have revolutionized the way people work together and share information.

Twitter, a micro-blogging site, lets people and businesses communicate in 140-character chunks called “tweets”.

Read the full article to better understand social media’s impact on marketing, management and collaboration in business today.

Time’s 2006 Person of the Year

One footnote: Time Magazine in their December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You, communicates the full impact and significance of our collective online collaboration called Web 2.0.

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Larry Brauner

In Creating a Home for Your Blog I discussed blogging platforms and stated my preference for starting a WordPress.org free-standing blog for greatest control and flexibility. Review that post to decide what’s best for you at the present time.

Blogging communities such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie will host a blog for you.

However, if you decide on WordPress.org or another free-standing blogging platform, you must set up an account with a web hosting company.

Make sure to select Linux shared web hosting and not Microsoft hosting.

Here is a partial list of web hosting companies to consider for your blog:

Each web hosting company has its own features and pricing structure. All these hosting companies are mainstream. They’re listed in alphabetical order. Choose the one that best fits your plans.

If you choose a WordPress.org blog, and you have never used WordPress before, ask a freind or colleague to help. You can also contact me, and I will provide you with personal help for a very modest fee.

One side note: If you’re looking to buy domain names, 1&1 Internet offers .com domains with private registration for $6.99 per year.

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Larry Brauner

Online social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook have become considerably heterogeneous over time. They support diverse agendas and activities.

One the other hand, social networking sites such as myYearbook or Linked In have retained their strictly social or business networking character.

Social Sites for Every Business

Business is embracing social networking, and most new social networking websites seem to lean more towards doing business than towards socializing.

I came across an excellent list of business networking sites and social media sites that will help you create a strong web presence for yourself or for your organization.

Inside CRM published a collection of 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence On. The entries are listed in five categories:

  1. Social Bookmarking Sites – such as reddit and Digg
  2. Business Networking Sites — like Ryze
  3. Niche Social Media Sites – including Sphinn and Tweako
  4. General Social Media Sites — such as Wikipedia
  5. Job Sites – like Yahoo! Hot Jobs

I don’t know whether their list will be updated periodically, but it is certainly an excellent jumping off point.

You can also consult Mashable’s Catalog of 350+ Social Networking SitesSeth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List and Ning Social Networking Sites for additional ideas.

You Need a Strong Web Presence

Are you an established entrepreneur or manager?

Are you opening a small business, a network marketing business or a consulting practice?

Even if you’re an employee in a corporation, you need a solid web presence to comptete in today’s Internet-based world.

When somebody Google’s YOU or your niche, what will the search engine return?

More on search engines and search engine optimization coming in future articles.

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Larry Brauner

My First Effort

I launched my Online Social Networking blog on November 6, 2007 with my first post, Here We Are.

I was a blogging and search engine optimization newbie.

You might remember my earlier post, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going!” I made a plan and got started.

My strategy was to attract readers at social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie, and at the same time build a strong presence in the search engines.

I chose to write about social networking because of the large amount of experience I had with online social networking and social networking sites, and I selected the name of this blog and its principal keywords accordingly.

My blog took form over a period of several months with a few false starts and reversals. I kept writing week after week and networking and strategizing while waiting for my search engine marketing to kick in.

I joined MyBloglog and Entrecard to connect with other bloggers and entice them to visit my site. At Entrecard I made new friends.

Marcus HochstadtOne, a gentleman named Marcus Hochstadt, has helped me enormously. Not only has Marcus given me lots of encouragement, but through a contest he organized and ran on his Internet Business Guide blog, he also helped me gain more than fifty good inbound links to my blog. This helped my Google Page Rank.

Moving Up in Google

Page rank is Google’s measure of a site’s authority. It’s a major factor in Google’s determination of a site’s position in search results.

Having your site shown by Google and other search engines on page one of the results when people search for your targeted keywords is highly desirable and is the primary goal of search engine optimization.

As my credibility increased, and my page rank went from zero to one and from one to two I moved up in the search engine results and saw large increments in the number of visitors Google was sending my way each day.

I started tracking my blog’s traffic late January using Google Analytics. At that time Google was already providing me with a couple of visitors per day. The following chart shows how my results improved over time. Click on the chart to view a larger much larger version.

Search Engine Visitors 

On a good day now I receive about 30 visitors. This will continue to grow over time, and I’ll keep you posted.

You Can Do It Too

I’m teaching a free course on blogging, search engine optimization and social media marketing. You’ll learn all the techniques I’ve discovered and how you can apply them yourself.

A wide range of social media marketing training courses is available at My Private Classroom for Marketers.

Subscribe to my newsletter at my free social media training site.

If you’re interesed in harnessing the synergy of blogging, social networking sites and search engine optimization, visit my Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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