Larry BraunerI launched my own LinkedIn group, Larry Brauner and Friends, as an experiment early last year. The group has since grown to over 800 members. We’ve explored a wide range of subjects and have hopefully demonstrated the feasibility of using a LinkedIn group for personal branding.

From the outset, I had in mind that when the time was ripe, I would begin conducting live interviews in the group with individuals who were thought leaders in their respective fields. Readers would be able to pose questions regarding a particular response or relevant to the overall conversation, simply by adding a comment. That time has finally come. :-D

Debugging Your Information Technology Job SearchI shall be interviewing over a number of weeks Janice Weinberg, a Westport, Connecticut career consultant and author of career books for IT professionals and managers. Her latest book, Debugging Your Information Technology Job Search, contains many innovative ideas for IT managers and executives through the CIO and CTO level who are seeking new jobs. The book also guides readers in identifying and correcting problems that are preventing them from generating interviews or — if they are obtaining interviews — impeding their ability to receive offers.

My questions to Janice will cover resume-writing, guidance in identifying employers likely to have suitable openings, and techniques for presenting oneself as a strong candidate in interviews. In providing her responses, Janice will draw upon her experience assisting IT managers* in obtaining computer operations, network operations center (NOC), service delivery, helpdesk, application development, program management, technology risk, and IT marketing/sales positions, as well as CTO and CIO jobs.

If you’d like to help your friends who are seeking management jobs, you may want to direct them to the interview: Advice for Managerial Job Seekers From Career Book Author

*Please note that although the emphasis in this author interview will be on providing guidance to IT managers, managers who are not seeking computer-related jobs can also expect to learn novel ideas to help them find more rewarding employment, since some topics I plan to cover will relate to general search strategies applicable to all managers.

Before you go, subscribe to Online Social Networking and “like” Larry Brauner on Facebook. :-)

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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 BraunerIt isn’t too late for entrepreneurs to become early adopters of social media. Use of the social web is still trying to find its way into mainstream business culture.

I first learned about Web 2.0 from Time Magazine’s historic December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. Then, after much preparation, I launched Online Social Networking in November 2007.

Social Media One Bite at a TimeLooking back and recounting my earlier discovery, I wrote in a March 2009 article, Social Media One Bite at a Time, that “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 at the forefront of an enormous trend.”

I now realize that I was one of the earliest social media adopters, especially within business circles. Entrepreneurs have been very slow to embrace the new media.

Consider two stories both appearing this week in established publications. Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and Is Social Media Worth Your Time? appeared in Inc.

These articles are indications that skepticism and misunderstanding remain pervasive, particularly among small business owners. The key concerns seem to be ROI and the time burden imposed by social media.

I’m not going to confront those issues in this blog post. Instead, I’m helping you see an opportunity. If you’re already sold on the long-term potential of branding yourself and your business using social media, you can get a good head start on most of your competition.

If you’re not already sold, read the two books I mentioned in Are You Building Your Personal Brand and Future Around Your Passion?Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel. Before you finish both books, I predict you’ll be a firm believer.

If you’re on your way, or if something is holding you back, in either case, I’d love to hear about it.

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Larry BraunerI’ll share one of my idiosyncrasies with you, but promise you won’t laugh: Most people go to the library to find books — not me. When I accompany my kids to the library, I take my own books with me to read while waiting for them to finish.

Think that’s peculiar? I can assure you that there’s a totally rational explanation: It’s rare to find the trendy business books I like to read at a library. I’m much more likely to find them at a bookstore.

Still, my kids like to tease me about this seemingly odd behavior.

Looking for Trendy Business Books at the LibraryImagine my surprise when on a recent library visit, I found both Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel in the new arrivals section. Finding these books was a fluke, but nevertheless, I do plan to check back in that section in the future. ;-)

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Crush It!. The words of @garyvee helped to reinforce and refine my personal approach to business and social media branding. (I’m still in the middle of Six Pixels of Separation and liking it so far.)

Business developers are starting to approach me to explore joint ventures. They tell me how successful they are and then talk to me about changing my path, building a giant email list and making videos.

Gary, on the other hand, talks about building your personal brand through social media by being authentic and “delivering your content by video, podcast, or blog.” Being authentic guarantees to “differentiate you from everybody else, including those who share your niche or business model.”

Gary’s whole book resonated with me. However, his emphasis on building a personal brand around one’s passion got me to stop and reflect for several days about my own passion.

I realized that while I love social media, the web, and data crunching, I have a greater passion for helping people solve difficult problems. Throughout my career, I’ve been happiest when solving business problems has been at the core of my work.

Gary Vaynerchuk writes that loving your family, working super hard and living your passion are the keys to success. What’s your passion, and are you building your personal brand and future around that passion?

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Larry BraunerOur website promotion event and social media party was an enormous success. Hundreds actively participated, introducing their web sites, engaging in dialog and making new connections.

Fortunately, the time frame for the networking phase of the event is open-ended, so drop by my Facebook page any time to meet some new people and check out what they’re up to. I’ll be busy working on the page for a few more days, reviewing web sites I haven’t yet visited.

Self PromotionOur four-day event was in part an experiment, as Tom Woolf pointed out. A key takeaway for me is that many people are promoting their products, services, companies interests and causes but not sufficiently promoting them- selves.

Keeping a low profile may occasionally be appropriate. However, in general, self-promotion is integral to social media marketing and public relations.

These are eight reasons why self-promotion and injecting yourself into your content are very important:

  1. You transcend your interests.  No interest or group of interests, no matter how passionate you are about them, can fully define you as a person. Admittedly, this point is too existential, so…
  2. Your subject matter might lose relevance. For example, your product can be discontinued or your company can go out of business. Your content will become irrelevant with no residual benefit from the effort you put into creating and promoting it. However…
  3. You’re always relevant as a person. You have inherent value, and you’re completely portable from one venue to another.
  4. You and I are unique. People aren’t interchangeable, but products, services and organizations tend to be.
  5. You and I are memorable. People will come to remember us and our faces once they see us a few times.
  6. People prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. It has always been that way, even before Al Gore allegedly invented the Internet. You and I can relate to people and build solid social capital.
  7. Synergy. Our diverse interests and content work to build a bigger and more insightful picture of us.
  8. Social media is uhh, social. You and I are social. Our jewelry and weight loss products merely facilitate social interaction. People relate to people, and their relationships are ongoing.

More about promoting yourself and personal branding in upcoming articles.

At this time, you can probably suggest additional reasons for keeping it social, and I expect that you will. ;-)

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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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Yet Another Ning Site?

In Ning Social Networking Sites Update I wrote about recent changes on Ning social sites and how to cope with them. One suggestion I made was that you could “start your own Ning social network“.

I knew that sooner or later I would build my own Ning social networking site. After all, the ability for anybody to create their own social networking sites is the most noteworthy feature of Ning.

I had already laid the groundwork to launch my own social network. I had many contacts who were involved in social networking whom I could invite to join. I had also received much encouragement from other site owners.

So on Wednesday, October 29, I set up my new site, and as of this writing there are 86 members from 11 countries.

Critical Thinking Outside the Box

My new Ning social network, Critical Thinking Outside the Box, “Larry Brauner’s Business and Social Network for Thinking People”, is intended as a companion site to my Online Social Networking blog.

It’s a networking site where you and I can brand ourselves. The site is of course strongly branded to me. The best way to brand yourself there is for you to start and participate in discussions on the forum.

If you participate and also bring a bunch of new members, I’ll feature you on the site.

You’re Officially Invited

Please join on Critical Thinking Outside the Box, add me as a friend, and leave a comment on my profile mentioning that you came through my blog.

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Larry BraunerAccording to Wikipedia, the 80/20 Rule or Pareto principle “states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.

The 80 and the 20 are not exact. The 80/20 Rule is what’s commonly known as a rule of thumb.

The 80 20 Rule is an abstract concept, but it’s important to understand it, so let me provide you with some concrete examples that I believe will help.

The 80/20 Rule and You

Approximately 80% of all income is paid to 20% of all people.

The highest paid people earn substantially more than the lowest paid ones. This is a phenomenon of which nearly all of us are acutely aware, and it often seems unfair.

However, 80% of all productivity comes from the efforts of 20% of all people. These 20% of people are the ones who:

  • have a good measure of internal motivation
  • have a high level of personal productivity
  • consistently invest in personal development
  • commit to their goals and focus their efforts
  • leverage their money and their time

Needless to say 80% of all people follow the 20% of all people who lead them.

While 80% of people spend their disposable income on what Robert Kiyosaki points to as worthless items which they think are assets, the 20% live frugally and spend as much as possible on income producing investments that pay them over and over again.

While 80% of people trade their time for money, the 20% use their time to develop businesses that leverage the time of the 80% employees — and also outsource and sub-contract to other businesses in order to gain even more leverage.

The 80% of people tend to take it easy or look for get rich schemes and shortcuts to success. They follow the path of least resistance, and they settle for much less than they really want.

Are you in the 80% or the 20%?

If you’re in the 80%, ask yourself what shift in thinking could transform you into one of the 20%.

The 80/20 Rule and Other People

If you’re in the 20%, then you need to apply the 80-20 Rule to the people around you:

  • 80% of your work is done by 20% or your workers. Spend 80% of your time developing your most productive workers.
  • So too in a direct or networking sales business: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your team. Spend 80% of your time developing your most productive team members.
  • 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients or customers. Your time should be spent conducting business with your best clients. There are some business experts who would go as far as firing the 80% of unprofitable clients. That may not always be feasible. In many industries such as health care or telecom firing costly customers could result in a public relations nightmare.

The 80/20 Rule and Social Marketing

Here are some Internet and social media applications of the 80-20 principle:

  • 80% of all blogging is done by 20% of all bloggers
  • 80% of all blog comments are made by 20% of all blog readers
  • 80% of all online social networking is done by 20% of all online networkers
  • 80% of all networkers flock to 20% of all social networking sites
  • 80% of all traffic goes to 20% of all websites
  • 80% of all spam is generated by 20% of all spammers

You can add to the list when you comment on this post — assuming of course that you’re one of the 20% of all readers. :)

You Can’t Know Everything

Expertise is a valuable asset when it comes to personal branding. As an expert you can teach and mentor others and differentiate yourself from your competition.

To become a top expert in any field requires years of dedication. You still won’t know everything there is to know.

You can generally acquire more knowledge than 80% of all people with 20% of the effort it takes to become a top expert. This feat often takes much less than a year. To overtake and pass the remaining 20% of all people might take many years or even a lifetime.

I like to call this particular aspect of the Pareto principle The Law of Diminishing Returns. Beyond a certain point each successive increment of result will require more effort than the previous increment. It becomes harder and harder to justify additional time investments.

In this era of specialization you can read a few books on a subject and know more about a subject than nearly everybody else. That’s the kind of expertise I’m recommending — coupled of course with some practical hands-on experience.

Invest your time to acquire knowledge that your prospective clients or customers will appreciate.

When I was a teen I worked and struggled obsessively to become a top chess player, and I succeeded.

Nowadays I prefer to grasp multiple subjects and to seek synergies among them: many types of data analysis, search engine optimization, marketing, social networking, blogging, etc.

My broad base of knowledge — fused with solid logic, trusted intuition and other abilities and skills — fuels my overall critical thinking outside the box strategy.

You Can’t Do Everything

Like it or not we can’t follow up on every idea or opportunity that presents itself. The Law of Diminishing Returns guarantees that. Therefore we must make value judgments and set priorities every day.

Fortunately the 80/20 Rule is on our side.

80% of all benefit accrues to us by accomplishing 20% of everything on our plate. Each day we ought to focus on a half dozen high priority agenda items that will move our businesses and our lives forward.

If only we did that consistently each and every day our lives would be filled with accomplishments and satisfaction.

Nobody however is perfect. We all have bad days. Yet, the 20% group prioritizes and moves forward with much greater focus and consistency than the 80% group.

Please don’t underestimate the power of the 80/20 Rule and the enormous potential of a modest 20 percent.

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What is Spam?

Wikipedia defines spam as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages”.

While most people think of spam as junk e-mail, Wikipedia points out that the term applies equally to the abuse of other electronic media:

  • Instant messaging
  • Usenet newsgroups
  • Search engines - This includes creating spam websites, keyword stuffing and social media abuse.
  • Blogs - Besides the computer generated spam a blog receives every day, there are people who believe that a blog’s comment space is some kind of billboard. The same people like to advertise on social networking sites in their and other people’s comment spaces.
  • Wikis - Wikipedia itself is a target of spam content.
  • Online classified ads
  • Mobile phone messaging
  • Internet forums - This is a first cousin of blog and social networking comment spam.
  • Fax transmissions

Spam is Offline Too

It is easy to extend the definition to include non-electronic media and communication:

  • Three foot rule - Anybody unfortunate enough to be standing next to the spammer gets an earful.
  • Car windows - This includes flyers on the windshield and sizzle cards between the rubber and the glass of the driver’s window.
  • Telemarketing and automated dialers - They really sound pretty much the same. It’s hard to tell which is real.
  • Rest room graffiti - Okay, maybe I am taking this a bit too far. However, I couldn’t resist. I’m sure by now you get the general idea.

Spam is Bad Business

Spam is anti-social, alienating and unprofitable, unless as Diane Hochman says, you’re going to do it right and set up an offshore server to blast spam messages to millions of inboxes.

Spam is highly inefficient and ineffective. Nearly everyone is turned off by spam or chooses to ignore it. Some forms of spam are illegal in many jurisdictions.

Forty-four years later, spam is a perfect example of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”. The spammer’s methodology becomes the focus of attention rather than the message’s intended content.

Why Do People Spam?

Spammers mistakenly believe that spam is marketing. Spam seems like a good simple marketing shortcut.

Spammers are taught to play the numbers game. Somebody out there is going to fall for it. When spammers fail, they rarely consider that their spam “strategy” was flawed.

The Law of Attraction

Learning to market correctly takes time and effort, but it’s worth the investment. You will attract success. Spam only attracts failure.

Read my articles on online social networking, blogging and personal branding, and come join me to learn more at My Private Classroom.

Real marketing and personal branding shall prevail.

Please share your spam stories. Post a comment. But please, no you know what.

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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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