Larry BraunerIn case you haven’t heard, “Friend Connect will be retired March 1, 2012,” says Google. This is not pleasant news for those websites that have sizable Google Friend Connect communities and whose community members have opted to receive newsletters from the site.

Google recommends that you join Google+ and invite your community to join with you in order to keep in touch. Compared to Google Friend Connect, Google+ is a rather lame tool for staying in touch. Google Friend Connect newsletters permitted direct community contact.

Google Ploy

Google+Google+ got off to a great start but seems to have lost much of its original momentum and engagement. Google probably hopes to give Google+ a shot in the arm by terminating Google Friend Connect and redirecting members.

If you have a community and wish to stay in touch, here are two approaches for creating email lists, are better than merely joining Google+ as Google advises.

If you have a small budget for an email contact list, I can use Aweber or Green Wave Email Marketing. I’m using both of them. Once you’re set up, ask your community to subscribe to your newsletter.

For a free email list, you can create your own group on a Ning social networking site, such as my Small Business Network. You will be able to email group members and to network with each other.

Invitation

I invite you to subscribe to this Online Social Networking blog and to join Small Business Network, so that we can stay in touch with each other. I’m also on Google+, Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter.

I love to network, and I’m very accessible. :-)

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Larry BraunerLast week, in Whether Hackers from Anonymous Bring Down Facebook on November 5 as Threatened or Not, I suggested that you find ways to reduce your risk of loss should Facebook go away.

I asked you, “How can you protect your interests by diverting or diversifying your networking and marketing efforts starting right now?”

Some readers recommended that we back up our data, but I pointed out that we can not back up our relationships like pictures or profiles.

Sal made a couple of very good points:
Facebook

  1. “I think there is no real way to mitigate completely against the damage that losing Facebook would mean, any more than you could mitigate against losing Google.”
  2.  ”On the Internet, you always have to see it coming and mitigate against it by having as many, diverse, independent sources of prospective customers as possible.”

While I agree completely with Sal’s remarks, I ask, how can we at least partially mitigate against the damage? What practical measures we can take?

Just as an example, we might start groups on LinkedIn and invite fellow Facebook group members to join these groups. Unfortunately, LinkedIn groups don’t have the same functionality as Facebook groups, and not all of our fellow Facebook group members will join us on LinkedIn, but this is nevertheless a practical partial solution.

We might instead choose a Ning social network or a Ning group within a particular Ning social network, etc. You get the idea.

Now it’s your turn again. What are your ideas? I would like to hear them, and I’ll share mine.

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Larry BraunerNing seems to be gaining popularity since restructuring in 2010, and since smoothing some of its rough edges.

Many Ning social networking sites are easier to navigate and operate than those of Facebook or LinkedIn. However, while mastering Ning’s features isn’t difficult, using Ning to network effectively can be.

I’ve been developing my network on Ning, writing about Ning and watching Ning go through changes for several years. Small Business Network is the Ning site I created and run.

Ning Social NetworksHere are 16 tips to help you better understand Ning social networking sites and to use Ning sites to help build your network:

  1. There are Ning social and business networks that cater to nearly every niche. Search the Ning home page and Google to find Ning networks that match your interests.
  2. Join all relevant Ning networks and create a profile on each. Be careful to bookmark the Ning sites you join, so that you can easily find your way back to them.
  3. Don’t worry about joining too many Ning sites. You won’t be active on all of them. All these sites will, however, contribute to your web presence.
  4. In 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking, I stated that “your LinkedIn profile is your resume. Put at least as much effort into creating and perfecting your profile as you would your resume.” I also suggest that you also invest substantial effort to create and perfect your Ning profile.
  5. Save your Ning profile is a text file on your computer desktop, so that you don’t have to recreate it from scratch each time you join a Ning site. You’ll just have to customize it a bit.
  6. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, Ning is an open networking platform. You’re free to reach out to any member with whom you wish to connect, even if you don’t know him or her. However, make sure that your approach is transparent and congenial.
  7. Ning groups tend to have a narrower focus than the overall site, and browsing group membership is a good way to locate the people you most want to meet. Creating your own Ning group is a great idea for networking and branding yourself, but follow-through is essential.
  8. Before inviting a member to connect, greet them and ask a friendly question in a comment on their profile wall to determine if they’re active. Most members of Ning sites are inactive, so don’t waste one of you limited invitations on them. Asking questions also helps establish relationships, and profile commenting also helps create internal links back to your profile, improving your profile’s standing with search engines.
  9. If you run out of invitations, delete pending invitations. Start with the oldest first, and only delete as many as needed at that moment.
  10. Accept invitations from others. Don’t be too fussy. You can’t have too many friends on Ning. I don’t know of any upper limit. Correct me if you know otherwise.
  11. The friends you make on one Ning site will be friends on all the Ning sites you have in common. You often join a Ning site and discover that you already have friends there.
  12. You can broadcast messages to up to 200 Ning friends at one time, but I myself very rarely use this feature. I like to write a blog post or start a discussion and then  share it with all my friends on a site. I personalize the notification with a few additional words using the optional message area. Blog posts and discussions also link internally back to your profile and help with search engines.
  13. Before sharing content with your Ning friends, ask yourself whether the content is truly valuable or whether it just another form of spam. Avoid spamming or face undesirable consequences. Spamming — or even pasting the exact same comment on many members’ profiles — can get you banned from all Ning sites.
  14. Invite your friends to connect with you on other social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Your friendship will survive even if the Ning site disappears or one of you become inactive on the site.
  15. One you’ve formed a relationship with another Ning member, use private messages rather than profile comments to communicate with each other, unless of course, you want your conversation to be displayed to the public.
  16. Invite outside contacts to join your favorite Ning sites, but don’t use Ning invites. Most Ning invites are ignored or end up in your friends’ spam folders. Instead, share good content from Ning on Facebook and other social sites. When people come to view the content, they’ll be presented with the option of joining.

Please join me on my Ning site, Small Business Network.

What Ning networks have you created or do you belong to? What Ning social networking tips can you share with us?

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

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

Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking

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

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

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

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

Hello Ning Open Networking

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

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

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

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

Search Engine Optimization Still Pays Big

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Larry 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 BraunerThis is a quick update on the Ning transition from free Ning networks to all paid networks. The deadline for upgrading free Ning networks had been set to August 20th, but Ning announced today that the deadline for choosing a price plan for your network is now extended until the 30th.

Ning Social NetworksYou might be able to use the additional time to devise a better Plan B. I plan to use the time to migrate more members from my old Ning networks to my new improved Ning network.

This my new Ning network, and I invite you to connect and network with me there:

Small Business Networking (Ning network for entrepreneurs and small businesses wherever they might be. Sign up there for the free social media marketing training.)

    You don’t need your own business to participate in my new Ning network.

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    Larry BraunerAugust 20th is here, and all free Ning networks go dark at midnight. Do you have a Ning network that’s not upgraded or belong to one? Are your Ning networks closing tonight?

    Ning network creators can, depending on quantity, archive all or part of their content from within the moderator area.

    Ning Social NetworksI’m closing a bunch of Ning networks but have recently launched a new Ning network to replace them.

    My new Ning network, for which I have ambitious and exciting plans is Small Business Networking (a Ning network serving entrepreneurs and small businesses worldwide). Sign up for the free social media marketing training to be offered on-site.

      You don’t need a business to participate in either network. You can gather business information, share ideas, search for a new job or do whatever else might make sense to you.

      If your Ning network is closing, you’re looking for better ways to brand yourself, or you simply desire to develop new skills, come to Small Business Networking.

      See you there. :)

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      Larry BraunerUpdate: Read Ning’s response in the comments.

      Ning plans to close thousands of free social networking sites this week. I believe Ning has drawn a line in the sand and do not expect Ning to grant a reprieve.

      I hope, now that Ning network creators are all paying customers, we’ll have a greater collective voice and more impact on the choices Ning makes.

      Ning Customer Service Issues

      Ning Social NetworksHowever, I saw complaints about Ning customer service on Twitter and Facebook, and with my Ning Sign-Up Glitch help ticket (00D8cCLt.5004BTxme) open since August 6, it seems to me that we’re off to an inauspicious start. Even though network creators have found a temporary work around, it does nevertheless behoove Ning to respond to us and address this type of problem.

      I assume that Ning is coping with a record number of inquiries due to its transition to new pricing, and that Ning’s customer service is backed up. Still, this situation doesn’t bode well, since an email to network creators explaining the situation would’ve demonstrated Ning’s transparency and bolstered our confidence in the company’s management.

      I myself recently launched a new Ning social networking site, and I stand behind Ning’s latest initiative. However, I ask you, isn’t it only fair that Ning should match the greater financial commitment of its network creators with a corresponding service commitment on its side?

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