Larry BraunerA Facebook friend recently asked about accepting friend requests on social networking sites, and I promised to discuss the matter. There is no single correct approach. However, by contrasting Facebook and LinkedIn, I hope to present and clarify a few of the issues.

Accepting Friends on Facebook

FacebookFacebook is a social website intended primarily for social networking. Regarding accepting friends on Facebook, whether using Facebook for business networking or social networking, the best approach is clearly to be selective,  because of both privacy concerns and the 5,000 Facebook friend limit.

Should you unwittingly accept a con artist as a friend on Facebook, you’ll give that person greater access to your personal information and the personal information of your friends. If somebody who invites you to become a friend appears suspicious, reject the offer and indicate to Facebook that you don’t know the person.

You also need to be selective, because Facebook friends are limited. I myself accept all requests that are plausible, but I continually unfriend people for one of the following reasons:

  • They spam me or annoy me.
  • Facebook tells me that it’s their birthday, and when I visit their profile pages, I have no idea who they are. In other words, I can’t remember them ever having any interaction with me.

In this manner, I fine tune my friend list, so that when I do reach 5,000 Facebook friends, most of those connections will have real social networking or business networking value to me.

Accepting Friends on LinkedIn

LinkedInLinkedIn is a social website intended exclusively for business networking. Regarding accepting friends on LinkedIn, there are two contrastingly different approaches that have gained acceptance within the LinkedIn community. You are free to choose either approach, but, once you do, you need to follow your chosen approach consistently.

  1. Closed Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn only with people you know or whom your respected contacts introduce to you. LinkedIn recommends and approves of this approach, as it allows you to build a trusted business network.
  2. Open Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn with as many people as possible, since your objective is maximize your reach and visibility on the business networking site. You may occasionally need to remove people who abuse the connection with you. This is the approach I myself have adopted, and you may feel free to invite me. My LinkedIn email is in my LinkedIn profile.

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Larry BraunerI’ve written many articles about social networking sites. Here’s some food for thought.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Ning call themselves social networking sites, while Twitter does not. However, Twitter has features like messaging and re-tweeting that can facilitate social networking.

Little Real Networking on Social Networking Sites

Social Networking SitesThese social networking platforms are extremely popular, but in my opinion, there’s little real social or business networking taking place on these online networking sites.

Sure, people are connecting and communicating on these sites, but few so-called social networkers are developing the important relationships that lead to the introductions, recommendations and opportunities they desire.

Social networking sites are used quite a lot to substitute for email, to share content, and to market products and services. Social networking sites are only infrequently used to build their users meaningful business or social networks.

Do you agree with my assessment, and if so, why do you think this is true? Lack of knowledge? Laziness? Other factors?

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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 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 BraunerI just launched my second promote your self/cause social and business networking event on Facebook which will run until Monday, August 2. My January Facebook fan page event went viral and drew hundreds of participants. Many of them made valuable new connections.

How the Event Works

Facebook
This social and business networking Facebook event is fairly simple. Here’s how I envision the event working:

  1. Registration - You go to the Facebook event page where you RSVP that you’re attending.
  2. Go to the Event - Then you go to my Facebook business page where the event is taking place. Note that the event is not taking place on the event page wall.
  3. Join My Facebook Business Page - If you’re already a member of my Facebook page, fine. If not, click “Like” to join.
  4. Post on My Facebook Business Page Wall - Write something informative about yourself, and if you like, attach a relevant link. You may post one time every day, but try not to write the same thing each day that you post. Don’t post religious, adult or highly controversial content.
  5. Check Out the Posts of Others - Find posts that resonate with you. Make sure you scroll down and click on “older posts” to view any posts that have rolled off the page.
  6. Leave a Good Comment - Usually, sharing a positive opinion and asking a question help to get a conversation going. If a conversation is already in progress, you can join that conversation. Always be kind and courteous, even when you disagree.
  7. Follow Up - When you receive a comment, always reply or follow up in some other way like sending a private message, requesting to be friends or doing something you said you’d do. Effective follow-up is an essential part of both social and business networking, online or offline, and it’s where most wanna-be networking mavens fall short.
  8. Promote the Event - Your help promoting our event will help make it more successful. The best ways to promote it are: sharing this blog post wherever you can and using the “+ Select Friends Button” on the event page to invite your Facebook friends. On Twitter, please use hashtag #11dayparty or click here for a pre-formatted tweet.
  9. Concerns or Complaints - Contact me privately with any concerns or complaints using one of the methods in my connect page.
  10. Stay Connected - If you aren’t subscribed to this blog, you can subscribe by email or via RSS feed.

Promote Yourself Here in a Comment

You may also promote your self/cause in a comment on this article and get a good dofollow link back to your website or blog site. However, I do have a few guidelines for you to follow:

  • Rules #4 and #6 from the list above apply here, as well.
  • Use your real name in the name box.
  • Place your link in the link box, not in the body of your comment.
  • Use at least one of the following words in your comment: business, networking, Facebook, event and page. It will help with SEO. Try to be natural and not force it.
  • I reserve the right to edit or remove any comments, as always.

Now that all the formalities are out of the way, it’s time for the social and business networking on Facebook to begin. Let’s have fun and get to know each other. :-D

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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.

If you’re new, please subscribe. Comments are welcome. ;-)

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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 BraunerHow much do you know about website widgets?

Last week, in Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues, I shared my concerns about security and privacy issues connected with the use of widgets on a blog or other website.

I concluded, “You are responsible as a blogger or website owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”

Today, I list 10 types of website widgets that can enhance your site:

  1. Community Building Widgets - I use both Google Friend Connect and Facebook fan page widgets here on Online Social Networking. They work on blogs, as well as other websites, and I like them very much. Make sure you enable and use the Google Friend Connect newsletter feature.
  2. Subscription Widgets - I use RSS and NetworkedBlogs widgets, which are suitable for blogs, and I also use an email subscription widget that works with any website.
  3. Tracking Widgets - In addition to embedding Google Analytics internally on every page of this blog, I use Get Clicky, Alexa, Page Rank Checker, Website Grader and Flag Counter widgets to acquire a broad range of additional statistics.
  4. Social Networking Widgets - Social network widgets encourage visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog and other key social bookmarking and social networking sites. An Entrecard widget enables me to network and expose my blog to thousands of bloggers.
  5. Polls and Survey Widgets - I use the interests and comments features of Google Friend Connect to obtain feedback and preferences from my GFC community.
  6. Content Sharing Widgets - The Add This widget at the end of each article makes it very easy (hint, hint) for you to share content with friends in your networks.
  7. Advertising Widgets - Ad widgets from Google Adwords, ad networks and retailers such as Amazon help you generate income from your blog or other website.
  8. Syndication Widgets - Display news, other information, YouTube videos and Flickr pics on your site.
  9. Widget Bars - Here’s an example of a page with a Digg toolbar widget (hint, hint again). Widget bars are becoming more and more common.
  10. Widget Gadgets - See Google Gadgets for everything else under the sun.

My favorite website widgets are community building widgets, subscription widgets, tracking widgets and social networking widgets. In a subsequent article, I’ll provide useful tips for using widgets. :-)

However, one more thing before you leave. What types of widgets do you use? What are examples of each?

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Larry Brauner

Building a social media presence is much more a marathon than a sprint. There’s plenty of content to develop, place and promote, and there are lots of relationships to build.

Running a marathon requires physical endurance and much more mental endurance than most people think.

I ran two marathons, so I speak from personal experience. I’m crossing the 1985 NYC Marathon finish line in the picture below. Months or years of difficult and sometimes painful training lead up to the day of the big race.

Larry Brauner Completes His Second New York City Marathon in November, 1985The social media marathon requires commitment, persistence and lots of patience, the type of mental endurance needed to complete a 26.2 mile race.

When I wrote Social Media One Bite at a Time back in March, I emphasized the importance of motivation and focus.

In the present article, I’m suggesting that you adopt the mindset of a marathoner. Commit to do whatever is necessary to succeed, and pace yourself, so that you don’t injure yourself or get burned out during the process. This principle is behind most great achievements.

I love the way my running coach Bob Glover puts it, “Start off slow and taper down.” Bob’s mantra counters our natural tendency to come “out of the gate” at full speed and keep running — our human egos at work.

How does all this translate into long-term social media success?

Marathoner Mindset

Here are seven ideas to help you develop the mindset of a marathoner:

  1. Make a serious commitment to do whatever is required to attain your social media or web marketing goals. This is an absolute prerequisite.
  2. Find your “Bob Glover.” I had more than one coach on my way to becoming a chess champion and teachers to help me learn cello and Talmud. I have mentors now and plan to have more mentors in the future. Get yourself a mentor. As I now like to say, “The ultimate shortcut is doing it right the first time.”
  3. Don’t wait until the conditions are perfect for launching your campaign. I’ll always remember what I heard Mike Litman say, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going”.
  4. Join one networking site at a time and take time to master it. Social networking sites can be intimidating at first. Learn a new feature, practice it, and go on to the next.
  5. Start out blogging once a week. It’s hard to begin, especially if, like me, you’re not a professional writer. You can increase your posting frequency later.
  6. Realize that there’s a steep social media learning curve. Do not quit. So many people join Twitter or Facebook or begin blogging and quit shortly thereafter. They expected to sprint a 100-yard* dash, not to run a marathon.
  7. Don’t forget about the “social” in social media. Get to know a lot of people and have a blast!

I invite you to subscribe to this blog and to share your ideas below.

*A unit of length equal to 0.9144 meters, something that even our British friends across the pond can find quaint.

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Larry BraunerI am about to discuss targeting and connecting as they apply to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning networks, the most popular social networking sites for business networking.

I could have broken the material into four separate blog posts, but decided instead to deliver it to you as four articles wrapped up into one long one.

For simplicity, I am assuming that your target market uses each of the sites. Since that may not be true in your case, feel free to adapt these business networking techniques to all other social networking sites as needed.

Facebook

Targeting and connecting on Facebook are pretty straightforward with one caveat. You are limited to 5,000 connections on Facebook, so you can’t afford to cast too wide a net. Be fussy about whom you connect with and remove from your friends anybody who spams you.

To identify people in your target market, search for groups and Facebook networked blogs that would likely interest them. Join the groups and follow the blogs yourself. Then browse the members of those groups and followers of those blogs to find potential connections.

I believe that blog followers as a whole are more active on Facebook than mere group members. However, consider selecting only members with some minimum number of friends such as 100 to weed out people who don’t really engage with the site.

If you’re not sure which groups and blogs to select, try connecting with others in your niche. You’ll be able to see which groups they lead or belong to and which blogs they publish or follow. You can also examine their Facebook walls to find additional potential connections.

Connecting isn’t difficult. When you invite another member, include a short note such as, “You and I are both members of the Social Networking Haters group.”

Please, promise me that you won’t write anything nerdy like, “I’m looking to connect with like minded people.” Don’t use a line like that with anybody anywhere ever. I mean it.

Twitter

The Twitter learning curve is steep. If you’re not well versed with Twitter, try the advice and resources in my Twitter articles. I’m going to assume that you pretty much know what you’re doing.

Since Twitter is bloated with spammers’ phony profiles, targeting on Twitter is difficult and getting more difficult all the time. It’s going to be a messy job, so be prepared. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Do not connect with anybody who has:

  • no profile information or inappropriate profile information
  • no picture, avatar or business logo
  • a lopsided relationship between following and followers
  • almost no tweets or spammy looking tweets

Do follow back anybody else who follows you. Unfollow anybody who spams you.

To identify Twitter members in your target market, start your search by using Find People to look for other people in your niche. Avoid the biggies, since they are magnets for spam, and a large percentage of their followers are spammers.

Look for the ones who have a few hundred to a few thousand followers.

Follow them and follow their followers — unless of course a particular follower looks suspicious based on the criteria I just listed above. A portion of their followers will hopefully belong to your target market.

Unfollow the people who don’t follow back after a few days and repeat the process.

Consider using a tool to manage your account.

LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, targeting is fairly straightforward, but connecting can be a challenge.

If you’re a job hunter or a headhunter in the recruiting industry, you should probably connect with as many people as you can. Since the limit is reportedly 30,000, you can afford to cast a very wide net.

In any case you should accept all invitations. Remove any connection who who spams you:

  1. Click on “Connections” which is on the left side bar.
  2. Click on “Remove Connections” which is currently near the upper right corner
  3. Then follow the instructions.

The main difficulty with LinkedIn is that if you invite someone who then indicates that they don’t know you, you get a strike against you. If this happens often, LinkedIn restricts your inviting privileges.

People who are open to invitations and implicitly agree not to indicate that they don’t know you are call LinkedIn Open Networkers, abbreviated LION.

There are at least two groups for LinkedIn Open Networkers:

You can join and browse these groups to find people to link to. They of course have an option to accept you or to archive you, i.e. ignore you. Usually they accept.

If you are not a job hunter or headhunter, you’re probably better off targeting than trying to connect to thousands of people. That’s your judgment call.

You can do both, just as I do. But I admit that I started as a job hunter years ago and built a large base at that time. If I were starting today, I think I would stick to targeting.

To make the best connections, join the groups that people in your target market would join, and participate in the groups’ discussions. You’ll naturally make connections and get some traffic to your blog or website along the way.

Ning Network

Targeting on Ning is a little tricky. Cast a wide net on Ning, since I’m not aware of any upper limit on the number of Ning friends.

Here are the challenges that you face when adding Ning friends:

  • You can only have 100 outstanding friend requests. You’ll have to dis-invite people who don’t respond. Do this from the “Friends” tab of your Ning dashboard at Ning.com.
  • Most of the people you invite won’t respond. Either they don’t know how or they’ve already abandoned the site.

You improve your results by posting a friendly, non-spammy and non-nerdy comment to their profile at the time you invite them.

You also improve your results by inviting people who have recently joined the site, the ones at the beginning of the member list, or people who are obviously engaging with the site.

Find people in your target market by joining Ning networks and groups that are likely to attract these people. Invite a hundred people, and wait a day. Some will accept, so you can invite more.

When you get stuck, trim your invite list starting from the end. While this can be a slow process, it has worked for me and for others.

Be careful not to spam your friends. Don’t invite them directly to join new Ning sites.

The best way to communicate with your Ning friends is to write informative blog posts on a Ning site about something that would interest people in your target audience. Then use the share feature on Ning to let them know about your post.

Read Introduction to Using Ning Sites and other Ning articles.

Now It’s Your Turn

I don’t have a monopoly on online business networking techniques. Why not share some of your own targeting and connecting ideas?

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