Larry BraunerFacebook friend lists may one day become much more useful than they are at present if the top online social networking site ever finds the wherewithal to implement Facebook lists intelligently and with flexibility in mind.

Admittedly, Facebook has some of the friend list details right. For example, you can create custom friend lists that make sense to you and your personal or business interests. You can (finally!) assign friends to friend lists without leaving their profile pages. You can also (once again!) select which lists of friends will see any particular Facebook update.

TOO Much Help from Facebook

FacebookRecently, Facebook created so-called “smart” lists in order to help us with categorizing our Facebook friends. Smart lists are an excellent idea. Unfortunately, however, Facebook went too far with smart lists and let them overshadow our hand crafted lists.

Try to use Facebook friend lists to selectively invite people to Facebook events or to “like” Facebook pages. The only lists consistently available for such invitations are Facebook smart lists, even if those “smart” friend lists happen to be totally empty lists. That’s especially dumb. Don’t you agree?

SMARTer Facebook Friend List Selection

For invitations, Facebook could provide a similar friend list selection mechanism to the one the online social network employs for directing profile updates. Then, optional use of Facebook smart lists would be - uh smart.

Facebook expects users to invite selectively and responsibly. Why shouldn’t Facebook help us by correcting their smart friend list oversight?

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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 BraunerSeven years ago in November 2003, I began my online networking exploration on Ryze, a new social web site which was, along with LinkedIn, one of the first social networking and business networking sites.

It wasn’t until 2006, after I’d already joined a number of additional social networking websites, that I learned that these sites were the precursors of a much larger social media phenomenon. I also learned about the importance of blogs, explained by Darren Rouse in his video which I embedded in Not Ready for Social Media Marketing.

Third BlogiversaryI launched this blog, Online Social Networking, in November 2007, and yes, I am celebrating my third blogiversary. :-D

In Social Media One Bite at a Time and 7 Tips for Winning the Social Media Marathon, I discuss the social media mindset and some of the social media strategies I’ve found very helpful.

Building My Social Media and Web Presence

Here is a list of my 10 top strategies for building my social media and web presence:

  1. Partnership - Building relationships though blogging, online social networking and social bookmarking sites.
  2. Content - Writing and publishing well thought-out and occasionally useful articles on my two blogs.
  3. Search Engine Optimization - Ongoing keyword research and SEO. 50% of all my web site traffic comes directly from search engines.
  4. Diversification - Creating a presence on diverse social media sites and cultivating diverse web site traffic sources.
  5. Innovation - Experimenting with many ideas, some work out and others flop, while resisting any urges to follow the crowd.
  6. Boldness - Haven’t been afraid to test the limits of social websites and social media strategies. Twitter removed @larrybrauner from their search results, Sphinn terminated my account, and Facebook sends me sweet little love messages when I become more ambitious than they like. All I can say is, “C’est la vie.” Meekness isn’t a good quality in a marketer.
  7. Planning - Always researching and frequently reevaluating and refining my web marketing and branding plan. Flexibility must accompany social media and web marketing planning.
  8. Attitude - Persevering, staying upbeat and focusing, even when I didn’t feel like it, such as when my Dad passed away last year, or when my search engine traffic dipped during this past summer.
  9. Tools - Taking advantage of a variety of social media, SEO and web analytics tools.
  10. Widgets - Integrating social media with my blogs through using website widgets.

Thank you for partnering with me and helping me all these years with my social media and web marketing efforts. :-D

Share Your Social Media Strategies

What are your most successful strategies for building your social media and web presence?

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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 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.

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Larry BraunerCan social aggregation and syndication websites make life online easier?

I wrote in Hubze is a New Business Site for Personal Branding and Social Media Aggregation that “the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront.”

Social Networking SitesSocial media enthusiasts who regularly cross post on multiple social platforms use aggregation and syndication sites and tools to simplify simultaneous cross posting across those platforms.

For example, I often want to share a link, an idea or content on all of the most popular social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning sites, such as inSocialMedia).

Since I don’t want to work through a complicated or tedious process each time I do that, I rely on syndication sites such as Amplify, Ping.fm and Posterous to help, depending upon the type of information I’m sharing.

Posterous vs. Amplify vs. Ping.fm

I prefer syndication sites over desktop tools, since I can access those sites from any computer wherever I happen to be, and they also help build my web presence. These are my current favorites:

  • Amplify - A social bookmarking site . You add links (along with article snippets if you like) using a browser bookmarklet, and your entries are posted to all the social networks you’ve specified. Amplify also has a strong social element and is a useful online social networking resource.
  • Ping.fm - A micro blogging site (a little like Twitter). Your posts can have pics attached, and can be distributed to a large variety of pre-specified social websites. You can conveniently submit your posts to Ping.fm by email.
  • Posterous - A blogging community to which you can post pics, video and text. Your Posterous posts are shared on a variety of pre-specified social websites. Posterous, like Amplify, has a strong social element. As with Ping.fm, you can submit your posts to Posterous by email, and as with Amplify you can create posts using a browser bookmarklet.

Hubze, now in testing, may be another important aggregation and syndication site in the future.

However, there are many syndication sites and tools that are already being used successfully. Which social aggregation and syndication websites and tools do you like to use — and why?

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Larry BraunerI spoke on December 9 with Rohn Robbins, Vail, Colorado attorney and the host of Community Focus on The Zephyr, True Local Radio, KZYR 97.7FM.

During the hour-long radio show, Rohn and I  discussed social media, online social networking and the most popular social networking sites from social, cultural, political, security and privacy perspectives.

While I continue to analyze the sites posted on my Facebook page during our website promotion event and social media party, pour yourself a drink and listen to the podcast online or download it to your iPod or MP3 player for offline listening.

You can find additional interviews and press coverage on my Media Buzz page.

Please share your thoughts about the world of social media and social networking sites, using the handy comment space provided below for your convenience. ;-)

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Larry Brauner
Connecting on social networking sites with family and friends requires little forethought or planning. The most popular social networks are easy enough to figure out, even without instruction manuals.

Most of us would agree that social networking sites are easy to use for casual networking.

On the other hand, reaching out to your target audience on social networking sites requires both planning and an appreciation of the fine points of each site. Social networking sites are not easy to use when it comes to marketing.

Facebook in particular is one social networking site that even experienced marketers struggle with, especially using profiles, pages, groups and apps in an appropriate and effective manner.

She Purged All of Her Friends on Facebook

Recently, I was contacted by a Facebook connection who happens to be some kind of celebrity. She was migrating her thousands of friends from her profile to her fan page, so that she could remove them from her profile.

At first glance, this is the Facebook equivalent of unfollowing all your friends on Twitter. However, you realize that it’s even more extreme once you think about it.

Removing her friends on Facebook, she gave up her access to their profile information and status updates. Either she was desperate for privacy :-P or hadn’t adequately considered the consequences or didn’t care much about connecting with the fans who were following her.

Separating Business from Personal on Facebook

Yesterday, a marketing friend informed me that he was trying to separate “business from personal” on Facebook. He had set up a fan page and asked me to send people there rather than to his profile.

He also informed me that he was “trying to get to 100 members, so I could get a vanity URL” and asked if I had any suggestions.

This same friend is working on attracting his target audience to his Ning social networking site which may partially justify his separating business from personal on Facebook. Nevertheless, connecting as Facebook friends offers so many excellent networking opportunities that one can’t fully justify passing it up.

Furthermore, his difficulty reaching 100 fans for his page is a sign to me that perhaps he’d be better off starting by building a base of Facebook friends from which he could later draw members for his page.

In Conclusion

A feature on one of the social networking sites may attract you, such as the ability to have an unlimited number of fan page members on Facebook, but it’s critical to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each strategy and tactic.

With Facebook groups for example, you can only have 5,000 members, but you can send group messages directly to the inboxes of all those members. That capability may be more useful to you that having unlimited members.

A modest investment of time speaking with an online social networking or social  marketing expert could dramatically increase the value of the subsequent time you spend marketing on social networking sites. ;-)

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Larry BraunerWe discussed in Why Doesn’t My Website Generate Sales? four different aspects of poor website performance: too little website traffic, the wrong website traffic, insufficient stickiness and poor conversion.

Today we shall examine the all too common problem of too little website traffic and answer three important questions:

  1. Doesn’t my website deserve to get traffic?
  2. Why doesn’t my website get traffic?
  3. How can I create traffic to my website?

Doesn’t My Website Deserve to Get Traffic?

If your website offers useful information or creates value for visitors in some way, it deserves traffic.

It’s really that simple.

Why Doesn’t My Website Get Traffic?

Deserving web traffic is one thing, and getting it is another. I believe that most websites deserve traffic. They were put on the web to present information or create value for visitors in some other fashion. Nevertheless, most websites sit and collect dust to the disappointment of their owners.

Here are a few reasons for the lack of traffic to deserving websites:

  • Lacking web marketing savvy - Most website owners do not know how to market their websites and generate traffic to them. This is alright as long this shortcoming is adequately compensated for which is usually not the case.
  • Assuming that web developers know marketing - Many website owners hold the mistaken belief that web developers will optimize their websites to attract traffic from the search engines. When the site is finished, there is often a keyword expression such as the company’s name that shows up on the first page of the search engines, but that keyword expression is trivial and doesn’t bring much traffic if any. This mistake is pretty common and very sad. It’s a major cause of the following problem.
  • Negativity - Too many website owners don’t appreciate the great marketing potential of the web or don’t believe that the web’s suitable for their business. This is a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How Can I Create Traffic to My Website?

Here are four ways to generate website traffic:

  1. Buy advertising - Your best options are print, radio and Internet. You may need a copywriter to develop an effective ad for the media you choose. Before you spend much on advertising, satisfy yourself with an experiment that your ad works and that your site can convert visitors into buyers. If you don’t take this precaution, you may end up throwing away money on advertising that doesn’t produce results.
  2. Connect with your target audience on the web- Online social networking is a path to free website traffic. Building your audience and your brand online is the main focus of this blog. Find the time to explore my site map and read a whole bunch of my articles. Use comments to ask questions. Social networking sites can be very useful, or they can be a very big waste of time. Knowing how to use networking sites effectively makes all the difference.
  3. Learn search engine optimization - You can read some books and optimize your website by yourself, just as I have done. There is an SEO learning curve, but in my opinion, it’s not as steep as the social media learning curve. Good website content and good SEO can attract thousands of free search engine visitors to your website.
  4. Get marketing help - find a web marketing consultant to guide you or do everything for you. That person could be me, or it could be somebody else who’s knowledgeable.

This is your website traffic road map. It’s up to you to choose the route and destination that are best for you.

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Larry Brauner

I’ve written about the problem of spam both offline and online at social networking sites in How Do You Like Your SPAM? and Why Do People SPAM?

With this article, I’m delivering on the promise I made last week to discuss marketing channels you can use to promote yourself or your business — without ever resorting to spam.

Legitimate promotion alternatives fall primarily into these basic categories:

  1. Advertising - Expect to pay — unless you prefer getting marginal results, running around town, lurking in parking lots and posing for security cameras, all while schlepping around stacks of flyers and carefully avoiding people you know. Online, free advertising attracts people without money and spammers, although you may get good results with Craigslist. Offline advertising includes newspapers, magazines, direct mail, radio, television, offline directory listings and billboards. Online advertising includes Pay Per Click, e-zines and online directory listings. I do not recommend using banner ads. Advertising ROI will depend on the net lifetime value of each acquisition or conversion and the cost of each acquisition.
  2. Press Releases - If your business is newsworthy, or if you can create a newsworthy event, then you may be able to get some free exposure. Your press release needs to be well written in a suitable format and distributed either offline, online or both.
  3. Speaking and Contributing Articles - It is an accepted practice to establish your reputation and generate leads by speaking at meetings or contributing articles to journals. Don’t expect to get paid anything until you become a recognized expert in your field.
  4. Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures - A business or list owner promotes your offer to his or her clients or e-mail list based on an agreement through which you both stand to gain. It’s not uncommon to give a joint venture partner all the profit from an initial product offering in exchange for helping you to add new contacts to your list.
  5. E-Mailing Your List - You can send relevant commercial messages to subscribers who previously opted into your database. Try to avoid using purchased lists. If you must, be sure you know with certainty that the subscribers agreed to receive offers from third parties. Be genuinely helpful and careful not to abuse your list.
  6. Search Engine Optimization - You’ll need a web site, and unless you’re an SEO maven, you’ll have to pay for SEO services. There’s more to doing effective search engine optimization than most people realize. However, SEO will be worth the trouble if it gets you ranked high up in the free organic search engine results that most searchers look at and care about.
  7. Social Media - Social marketing is similar in philosophy to speaking and article contribution mentioned above. You share online videos and articles to educate, inform and entertain people, and to build a relationship with them. If they want your product or service, they’ll be inclined to buy it from you, since they know you, and you’ve earned their respect. Your blog on a social networking site, a blogging community such as Blogger.com, or you own hosting, are good places to share your content. For ideal results, create and post new original content on a regular basis. If your content is geared toward your target market, then you’ll attract qualified customers to you and your site.
  8. Business and Social Networking - Networking is meeting new people and developing relationships with them. You can network at your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. I can go to Network Plus, a group in my area founded by Ted Fattoross. Online social networking is more convenient. You network from your computer at any of thousands of social networking sites. My favorites are Ning and Facebook. You build relationships by asking questions and getting to know people. Keep in mind that spamming doesn’t work at all, and exchanging business cards is no more than a cordial first step in starting a relationship.

I like the web marketing channels: my e-mail list, search engine optimization, social marketing and business networking. I coordinate them to benefit from the synergies between them.

Now it’s your turn.

Which methods do you use? Which ones are you hoping to use in the future? What challenges do you foresee?

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