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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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.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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