Larry BraunerI obsess over my website search engine ranking and check my keyword search engine rankings more often than once a week. After all, who doesn’t want to achieve higher search engine rankings and get more web site traffic?

However, top search engine ranking isn’t everything. There is much more to search engine optimization than merely increasing a website’s search engine ranking.

Get More Web Site TrafficYour website can have a top Google search engine ranking yet not receive its fair share of traffic or receive insufficiently targeted traffic, which is also bad.

As I pointed out in a comment on 5 Steps to Make Wordpress an SEO Beast, an excellent article on the StylyzedWeb blog, you can be at the top of the search engines, but if too few people click through to your website or the wrong people click through, you can’t say that your site is search engine optimized.

A page’s title and description in its header often determine exactly how that page will appear in the search engine results and how likely searchers will be to click through to it. Header tags need to be optimized not only with search engines in mind but with people in mind too.

Search engine marketers are keenly aware of this issue, and search engine optimizers need to be equally aware.

Furthermore, if ample targeted visitors do come to your website, but your site is ineffective because of its content or design, then all your efforts to attract search engine traffic or any other traffic have been for naught.

Optimizing your website’s keywords to obtain a top search engine ranking is important, but the appeal of both your search engine listing and your actual website to your target audience are at least as important and should not be neglected.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated as usual. :-)

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Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

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Larry BraunerConnecting with your target audience on Twitter is difficult, and with all the bots and spammers joining the site, it’s getting to be more and more difficult to find real people each day.

Let me share a targeting example with you.

Suppose that you want to locate wine enthusiasts. You happen to find my Twitter profile through Twitter Grader or a similar program, because I have identified myself as a wine lover in my bio.

You decide to follow all the people who follow me reasoning correctly that many of them are also wine lovers. If you’re lucky, a few hundred of them are real wine enthusiasts, and they will follow you back as soon as you follow them.

All this sounds good, but there’s one tiny little problem.

If you follow all the 30,000 people who follow me, you’ll have to follow –  and subsequently unfollow — the more that 29,000 people who follow me but know as little about fine wine as a politician tends to know about ethical conduct.

There has to be a more efficient approach. Don’t you think?

Searching Twitter Profiles

There are quite a few Twitter tools that search through profiles and tweets. I like TweepSearch, since it searches profile bios but at the same does its best to sort the results by the time since the most recent tweet, making it easier to locate active Twitter users.

When you log in through Twitter, TweepSearch shows you whom you’re already following and enables you to follow, unfollow or block people within the search results.

You can limit your search to followers of a particular Twitter member or search through everybody. In other words, you could search the profiles of my followers to find the wine lovers among them, or you could search the whole Twitter database for wine lovers.

You’ll have to play with TweepSearch and other Twitter resources and search tools until you find the ones that best suit your needs.

Automated Twitter Tools

There are a variety of Twitter tools that help you identify your target market and do all the following and unfollowing for you. Since I am following and unfollowing many people and managing several Twitter accounts for clients, I decided to experiment with one of these tools, a cute program called TweetAdder.

TweetAdder searches through profiles or tweets for keywords and can search by U.S. postal code too. It creates, saves and manages a list of target users for you to follow at a reasonable pace which you specify. The program isn’t free, but they do provide a limited version for free, so that you can see how it works before you buy it.

I like that TweetAdder works in the background while I perform other tasks, and that the vendor doesn’t make all sorts of hypey claims. They encourage proper use of the TweetAdder tool.

Twitter Style Networking

I must at least mention the natural approach to adding followers and making connections — slowly and methodically through careful examination of bios and retweeted updates. This is how I was taught, by purists no doubt, when I first started using Twitter.

I consider this approach much too slow to use for social marketing, and you don’t really want to spend all your time on Twitter.

Or do you? ;-)

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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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Larry BraunerThe use of the word holistic is a bit problematic, although it did catch your attention.

Holistic emphasizes the importance of the whole and the interdependence of the parts. But is not each whole a part of a greater whole?

Web marketing is one part of the marketing function, as is offline marketing. The marketing function is one part of the business enterprise, as are finance, HR and MIS. And so on.

Therefore it seems that holism is relative and depends entirely upon one’s perspective.

Nevertheless, I emphasize the importance of web marketing as a whole and the interdependence of its parts which can include all of the following:

  • needs assessment and planning
  • competitive intelligence
  • market segmentation and targeting
  • positioning
  • keyword research
  • on-page and off-page SEO
  • multimedia content development
  • content management
  • legal review
  • web site design and programming
  • search engine marketing
  • database management and e-mail marketing
  • social media policy and training
  • social media optimization
  • social networking community moderation
  • reputation monitoring
  • marketing analytics
  • tracking of key performance indicators

That’s quite an impressive list, and it’s not necessarily complete.

As a whole, web marketing requires the expertise of generalists who have some knowledge of each of the many interdependent parts. Generalists can see the forest through the trees.

Each of the parts requires the services of specialists who possess a great depth of experience in their individual areas of specialty.

Being a generalist but having good experience in several key areas allows me to effectively wear more than one web marketing hat.

I stated in Web Developers Don’t Know Social Media that web developers know “how to build a website and how to create a web page that interacts effectively with visitors,” but that they “are neither experienced Internet marketers nor skilled copywriters.”

It’s equally true that copywriters know how to write effective copy, but they don’t know how to assess the competition nor how to compute marketing metrics.

Web marketing is a team effort. The team cannot succeed without its captain nor the captain without his or her team.

Choose a wise captain, and let your captain assemble your web marketing team.

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I explained in Top 10 Reasons for Social Marketing why marketers need to add social media to their repertoire and promised to “write about the unique challenges that social media marketing poses” to early adopters.

Here then are my top ten challenges that social marketers will likely grapple with:

  1. Social media often meets with skepticism and resistance inside an organization. This reaction is normal to anything radically new. I suggest that you present social marketing to your colleagues as an experiment that will complement conventional multichannel marketing if successful, not replace it.
  2. Results aren’t achieved nearly as quickly with social media as they are with direct marketing techniques. When planning an experiment or production, be careful about forming unrealistic timing expectations.
  3. The social media learning curve is very steep. Few books or courses teach social marketing, and much of the information available online is unreliable or even biased. I recommend that you seek experienced outside professional help to chart your social marketing path, set policy and facilitate implementation.
  4. It’s easy to spin wheels and waste lots of time going nowhere. There are way too many interesting social networking sites and lots of hype surrounding them. Be sure to read Social Media Targeting for People and Businesses.
  5. Marketers tend to think in terms of generating leads and building databases rather than building a following and a community — new media style. Furthermore, social media is about relating person to person, not about relating impersonally to people as a company. Be prepared to think in new ways.
  6. Since social media is community oriented, contributing to one’s community is essential. It’s not enough to communicate just to customers or to prospects.
  7. Traditional push marketing and list building techniques are usually regarded as spam and are ineffective in the social media world. Old and new media approaches tend to be incompatible. In the social marketing paradigm information is made available online for discovery and hopefully action, and this process isn’t something that can be forced.
  8. Most newcomers to social marketing think one dimensionally and latch onto fads such as the social media site du jour. Social marketing isn’t one site or one strategy fits all. Once again I recommend Social Media Targeting for People and Businesses.
  9. Social media is still evolving rapidly and tends to be a moving target. While social media is global, participation in non-English speaking countries is stilted towards English speaking demographics such as students and upper classes. Remain alert to changes in technology and new opportunities that are bound to occur.
  10. Social media can work against a brand, not just for it — and can be very unforgiving. However, this is true even if companies elect not to use it for marketing or for their public relations. It’s therefore better to be proactive than reactive.

I’m sure you’ll agree that these are all important issues. I hope deal with them individually and in more detail in subsequent posts.

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Larry BraunerMarketing is often as important to people as it is to businesses.

People seeking jobs, marriage partners or buyers for their personal property all need to target and reach out to their respective markets.

Social Media is Very Accessible

Old media such as TV, radio, print, mail — and even online advertising — tend to be very costly and are used most effectively by big corporations and by savvy direct marketers.

However, the new media such as blogging, video, online social networking and social bookmarking cost little or nothing to use and are as accessible to people and small businesses as they are to big corporations and direct marketers.

Ineffective Use of Social Media

The low out-of-pocket cost of the new media entices people and businesses to waste time and energy by using social media marketing more haphazardly and less rigorously than they would use more expensive old media marketing channels.

Many marketers further compound the problem by bringing to social media old media advertising and prospecting paradigms rather than a new media attracting, socializing and educating paradigms.

Marketers need to learn how to focus their social media efforts by applying rigorous standards and analytics to new media marketing campaigns.

Reaching the Right Audience

One way to focus your social media effort is through targeting. Simply put, targeting means reaching the right people, the people who can benefit from you, your product or your service.

Market segmentation is a form of targeting research that studies the characteristics and desires of different population segments. I assume for now that you know — at least approximately — whom you wish to target, and that you want to be able to tackle the how part of the problem.

Competitive Intelligence

Professional marketers, especially direct marketers, study what their competition is — and is not — doing in great detail. They may also try to understand why the competition is doing what it does, and if a campaign is used over and over, they’ll will assume that the campaign is profitable.

Watch your competitors and you’ll learn how they position themselves, what they write about, what keywords they optimize, where they bookmark their content, what tags they use, and much more.

Competitive intelligence applies equally to old and new media marketing.

Top Targeting Strategies

Here are my favorite targeting strategies:

  • Develop good content that is context sensitive, communicates who you are, what you do and how you might be different — all without reading like a sales letter.
  • Do keyword research, so that while you write for people, you can also help the search engines, as much of your traffic will come from search engines, especially form Google.
  • Fish where the fish are. Choose social networking sites that you believe attract the people you are looking to attract. If you find your competitors there, that can be a good thing. It indicates that your target audience is also there. Hopefully your content positions you in a way that you’ll stand out from the competition or address a need that they do not.
  • Cast a wide net. Don’t prejudge too much. Err on the side of targeting too inclusively rather than too exclusively. Participate on a variety of sites and expose as many people as possible to both you and your message. If you know me, you know that I pursue this strategy on Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning social networks.
  • Let people decide for themselves how relevant your content is and whether or not you might be able to help them. That’s an key element of both attraction and social marketing.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. Read The 80/20 Rule and Social Media. Cast a wide net but not too wide.
  • Get personal. Even if you’re a business, people will want to relate to you as a person. In social media you are an integral part of your brand.
  • Experiment and be ready to adapt and make changes as you go. Marketers know that they’re not likely to get it right the first time, so consider everything you do to be a work in progress.
  • Establish an ongoing social media presence. Be persistent. Timing is extremely important. Even if somebody is the right person, the time might be wrong for him or her. You will make a sale if you’re there when the time is right.
  • Use old media to supplement and complement your new media. Just because you use social media, you need not abandon any old media marketing that’s working for you.
  • Seek help if you don’t have all the expertise or writing skills you need to succeed. That help might include advice, project management or outsourcing.

This list is not intended to be complete. However, it should give you plenty of food for thought.

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Larry Brauner

In List Building Using Twitter, I discussed the importance of list building and the ease of building a list on Twitter.

In this article I focus on building your Twitter community — people who relate to your niche and who share some of your interests — people with whom you can network and who also extend your list in a more targeted way than previously outlined.

Is Twitter Past Its Prime?

Twitter will not last forever. However, I’m hoping that Twitter will have a strong future. Many new applications are currently being developed and launched “on top of” Twitter using the Twitter API.

If Twitter was on its way out, it’s highly unlikely that such substantial resources would be invested to build upon the Twitter platform. If my theory is right, then what we’ve seen so far is only the tip of the Twitter iceberg.

Building Your Twitter Community

Twitter has a tool for searching tweets. It can help find people in your niche or who share you interests. You can also use Twollow which bases its searches on the contents of tweets.

I prefer searches based on profile, because they’re more robust. Twitter Grader Search searches profiles. It also identifies the best people to connect with, ones who are active and successful using Twitter. I plug in search terms and back comes a list of Twitter users along with their Twitter Grader ratings and their complete profile information.

Another resource to look at is Twitter Groups. This new tool brings people together based both on common interests and geographic location and is worth exploring.

I’ve already built a following using the procedure I outlined in List Building Using Twitter, and my profile highlights interests relevant to my niche, so the people I follow tend to follow me back.

Keep your eyes open for news about other useful tools. Using the tools available to you, you can build a community of friends just as you would at social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace or any of the Ning social networks.

Networking with Your Twitter Community

Every social networking site has features that permit members to communicate with each other, and in this respect Twitter is no different. Here are your basic options on Twitter:

  • Updates are best used to reach all your followers who are monitoring Twitter at that moment — consistent with a list building strategy rather than an online social networking strategy. However, you can view any Twitter member’s past posts by visiting their page, as long as they don’t have their updates protected. If they are protected, you will need to request permission in order to browse their updates.
  • Replies are updates that begin with @username, public messages addressed to a particular member. Members don’t need to be following you to receive a reply, but if they’re not following you, they can safely choose to ignore you without appearing rude. If you’re having a long conversation which others might find annoying, avoid using replies — use direct messages instead. Annoy people, and they will stop following you. Use replies specifically when you want everybody or a group of people included in your discussion.
  • Direct messages referred to as DMs are private, and they’re the closest you can get to e-mail communication using Twitter. Use direct messages when it’s inappropriate to reach the community-at-large. Direct messages are very rarely ignored, and they’re essential to cultivating one-on-one relationships using Twitter.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you begin to network on Twitter:

  • You don’t need a large number of followers to network on Twitter. You only need one follower to start.
  • You aren’t the only networker with an agenda. To be very successful help your networking partners advance their agendas while you advance your own. If you want people to be interested in you, be interested in them. See the site map for a listing of articles I’ve written about online social networking and other topics.
  • You should never ever spam. If you’re thinking of using Twitter (or any other social networking site) to spam (or to advertise) rather than to network with other members, please check out How Do You Like Your SPAM? and Social Networking vs. Advertising.

I’d love for you to follow me.

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The Case for Social Media Marketing

It is becoming increasingly more difficult and more expensive to reach potential customers using mass media. That’s one reason why so many marketers are turning to Web 2.0 social media marketing.

Not only do marketers want to reduce their advertising expense, they also want to connect more directly with people and learn how to better serve their target market.

Social media marketing is especially attractive to small business owners operating on modest budgets, since most social networking sites and other social media sites are generally free to use.

Steep Learning Curve

They read a story such as Beyond Blogs in the June 2nd issue of Business Week, and they rush off to embrace Web 2.0 social media unprepared for the steep learning curve that lies ahead.

The social media landscape is uncharted and sprawling. Social media sites are vying for your attention, and searching the Internet for advice turns up sharply conflicting recommendations.

Need for Mentor

Clearly you need a mentor, somebody smart and knowledgeable with especially strong communication skills. You should find somebody with whom you feel comfortable, because you’ll definitely be getting to know each other. Picking a mentor is difficult.

Effective Communication #1 Challenge

Once you find your mentor mastering essential social media marketing skills will be difficult. To get fully up to speed might take a year or even longer.

That is the bad news.

In my opinion, the hardest part of social media marketing training is learning effective communication, i.e., to write, speak, listen and persuade well and in a professional manner.

There are certainly plenty of technical challenges to overcome, but by far communication is the chief obstacle new social media marketers face. If you happen to have the right mix of communication skills, you’re way ahead of most newcomers.

Your mentor can teach you personal and business branding, online social networking, blogging, video marketingsocial bookmarking, SEO and other important skills. He or she can also critique your communication style, but it will be you who will connect directly with your target market and build vital business relationships.

Get Started Now and Learn as You Go

Now the good news.

You don’t have to master every skill, dot every “i” and cross every “t” before getting started.

Find a good mentor to guide you, jump in and get your feet wet. Learn by doing.

As Mike Litman always says: “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.”

Your results will serve as feedback to help you to make the necessary corrections along the way… and that is good news.

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Larry BraunerEven people who don’t go online and don’t understand social networking have heard of MySpace or Facebook, names that might conjure up fears of predators or identity theft.

However, that’s not my point.

My point is that MySpace and Facebook are so much talked about that they have pretty much become household names, and serious business networkers have or ought to have a presence at MySpace, Facebook and Linked In — and at other major social networking sites.

Many of the important online networking sites are listed for your convenience:

There are also industry specific sites. For example if your business is real estate related, consider joining ActiveRain Real Estate Network and Wanna Network, if you don’t already belong.

To find business networking sites specific to any industry, try plugging the industry name and the words “networking sites” into your favorite search engine.

But wait, the story doesn’t end here.

Smaller and newer business networking sites also deserve to be included in your online portfolio. After all, less can be more.

When Diane Hochman Zigs, I Zag

My Private ClassroomDiane Hochman, the founder and director of My Private Classroom for Marketers, often instructs, “Don’t Follow the Flock”. When others are zigging, you zag.

Diane is a Web 2.0 social media rock star. Many people follow her every move. They go where she goes. They do what she does. They zig when she zigs, and they zag when she zags.

People like Diane Hochman and Mike Dillard have their own flocks. Since I don’t want to follow the flock, nor live in somebody’s shadow, when Diane and Mike zig, I zag.

When they’re hanging at Facebook and Twitter, I’m chillin’ at one of the newer smaller sites such as Sta.rtUp.biz, a site that caters to small business entrepreneurs, or Natural Networkers, a social networking site for proponents of attraction marketing.

I might also be list building at Direct Matches or schmoozing at Yuwie, since they are not.

I think you get the general idea. It fits in with my online social networking strategy and my personal branding strategy. It’s common sense. I have plenty of room to maneuver.

You too might be best off charting a different course than your competition or industry leaders.

Choosing Business Networking Sites

There are many possible criteria for choosing business sites. However, at the end of the day it’s largely a matter of trial and error.

Nevertheless, let me share a few of my considerations with you. Perhaps I’ll share more in a future blog post.

Some social networking sites are funded by membership fees, some by advertising, and some by a combination of the two. I mainly prefer advertising supported sites. I’m not typically reaching out to a very elite crowd.

I do admit, I was a paid Executive Member at Direct Matches for three years. I highly valued the package of services they provided, and I appreciated Bill Weber’s personal touch. You can join Direct Matches for free.

I don’t pay to use any social networking sites at the present time. All the networking sites I use are either ad supported or offer free memberships that I find suitable.

Some networking sites make it easier to connect than others. I like to reach out to a large audience and prefer sites that make it easy for me to do that.

I like to be able to browse and add friends or contacts by demographic characteristics or by geographic location. When sites offer that option, it’s great. When they don’t, I look to a site’s groups or clubs to find people in my target market.

I recommend that you explore Ning social networking sites. While they do not support demographic browsing, but they are nevetheless very useful for business networking.

Short Lived Networking Feature

Some new social networking sites let me send mail to all my contacts or to all members of groups to which I belong. I love this capability and use it effectively without abusing or spamming.

I like to let lots of people know about my new blog posts. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d send links to useful information and thereby build my relationship with fellow members.

Unfortunately, as a networking site grows, spammers inevitably move in and ruin it for everybody. It’s impossible to keep a step ahead of them, so all sites eventually limit or eliminate this wonderful feature.

Don’t Let Spammers Ruin Your Day

I don’t like spammers and wish they’d stick with safelists or classified ads, but I don’t let them ruin my day, nor do I let them dissuade me from using any particular social networking site.

If I can cope with tailgaters and drivers who cut me off on the highway, I can surely cope with spammers.

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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