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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Larry Brauner

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?

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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Larry Brauner

In Creating a Home for Your Blog I discussed blogging platforms and stated my preference for starting a WordPress.org free-standing blog for greatest control and flexibility. Review that post to decide what’s best for you at the present time.

Blogging communities such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, and social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie will host a blog for you.

However, if you decide on WordPress.org or another free-standing blogging platform, you must set up an account with a web hosting company.

Make sure to select Linux shared web hosting and not Microsoft hosting.

Here is a partial list of web hosting companies to consider for your blog:

Each web hosting company has its own features and pricing structure. All these hosting companies are mainstream. They’re listed in alphabetical order. Choose the one that best fits your plans.

If you choose a WordPress.org blog, and you have never used WordPress before, ask a freind or colleague to help. You can also contact me, and I will provide you with personal help for a very modest fee.

One side note: If you’re looking to buy domain names, 1&1 Internet offers .com domains with private registration for $6.99 per year.

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Larry Brauner

My First Effort

I launched my Online Social Networking blog on November 6, 2007 with my first post, Here We Are.

I was a blogging and search engine optimization newbie.

You might remember my earlier post, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going!” I made a plan and got started.

My strategy was to attract readers at social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie, and at the same time build a strong presence in the search engines.

I chose to write about social networking because of the large amount of experience I had with online social networking and social networking sites, and I selected the name of this blog and its principal keywords accordingly.

My blog took form over a period of several months with a few false starts and reversals. I kept writing week after week and networking and strategizing while waiting for my search engine marketing to kick in.

I joined MyBloglog and Entrecard to connect with other bloggers and entice them to visit my site. At Entrecard I made new friends.

Marcus HochstadtOne, a gentleman named Marcus Hochstadt, has helped me enormously. Not only has Marcus given me lots of encouragement, but through a contest he organized and ran on his Internet Business Guide blog, he also helped me gain more than fifty good inbound links to my blog. This helped my Google Page Rank.

Moving Up in Google

Page rank is Google’s measure of a site’s authority. It’s a major factor in Google’s determination of a site’s position in search results.

Having your site shown by Google and other search engines on page one of the results when people search for your targeted keywords is highly desirable and is the primary goal of search engine optimization.

As my credibility increased, and my page rank went from zero to one and from one to two I moved up in the search engine results and saw large increments in the number of visitors Google was sending my way each day.

I started tracking my blog’s traffic late January using Google Analytics. At that time Google was already providing me with a couple of visitors per day. The following chart shows how my results improved over time. Click on the chart to view a larger much larger version.

Search Engine Visitors 

On a good day now I receive about 30 visitors. This will continue to grow over time, and I’ll keep you posted.

You Can Do It Too

I’m teaching a free course on blogging, search engine optimization and social media marketing. You’ll learn all the techniques I’ve discovered and how you can apply them yourself.

A wide range of social media marketing training courses is available at My Private Classroom for Marketers.

Subscribe to my newsletter at my free social media training site.

If you’re interesed in harnessing the synergy of blogging, social networking sites and search engine optimization, visit my Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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Larry Brauner

History Repeating Itself
Reading Down to the End of the Comments is a MUST !

Pay It Forward for Profits, a quasi downline club pretending to be a funded proposal, collapsed last year. I hoped people would learn a lesson from it.

Members were funneled into marginal programs such as GDI and Empowerism for the sake of the income streams they provided — and perhaps too because the Pay It Forward founders had a prior interest in those programs. Members had sought to promote their primary businesses when joining PIF4P, but that idea typically got lost in the shuffle.

My Private ClassroomAs Diane Hochman used to teach in My Private Classroom webinars, marketing systems are simply not sustainable. They implode once a large enough number of users adopt or tout the system.

Rather than develop or teach systems and shortcuts, Diane Hochman and I teach key leadership skills and offer excellent social media marketing training.

After all, isn’t it better to invest a few months to develop strong marketing and communication skills that will serve us a lifetime than to invest the same effort in a system that might make us a few fast bucks if we’re lucky?

It’s not good to rely solely on a marketing system to build a business, but when the system itself is the product, as was the case with Pay It Forward for Profits, then the ultimate end comes quickly, usually within a year or two, and the program is completely wiped out.

Unfortunately most people don’t learn. They blame their result on bad luck or external circumstances and jump on one of the next bandwagons to come along.

As Alexander Pope said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and new marketing schemes appear every week.

Caution Recommended

What’s astonishing about The Spiderweb Marketing System is how closely it resembles Pay It Forward. When I signed up and looked inside, I could hardly believe my eyes. There was GDI front and center, just as it was in PIF4P.

That’s where the automated blogs are set up. Global Domains is the first paid component of this free system.

Hmm. Did I just say that?

I guess the system isn’t free. Users buy overpriced web services for $10 per month from GDI in order to use The SpiderWeb Marketing System.

When you get to the Direct Matches* sign up, you really can sign up for free. However, if you do, you won’t be able to implement the Direct Matches piece of the traffic system — better pay another $10 per month for that. I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

Ever hear of bait-and-switch?

Sorry. Let’s call it upsell.

There are multiple income streams — some pretty good. And there’s no made-up story about funded proposals like with Pay It Forward for Profits — also good. However, I wish they were up front about the cost. Spider Web is not a free system.

Many people will join Spider looking for multiple streams of income, but instead they’ll find themselves saddled down with multiple streams of outgo.

Oh, there is one other thing. In addition to clogging the Direct Matches MyMail system with spammy messages, The SpiderWeb Marketing System is a proponent and proliferator of automated blogs.

An automated blog is a system generated blog. The system creates the blog and pumps posts into the blogosphere faster than you can say “global warming”.

I just though of a name for this new phenomenon, it’s a blog infestation.

Okay. Needs some work. Give me some time. I’ll think of a better one.

All kidding aside, I can’t understand why somebody would want to spend hours spamming members at Direct Matches and Yuwie while polluting the blogosphere on auto-pilot.

There’s a moral issue too which I hope to discuss in detail in a future post. For now, consider this. When somebody visits a blog, they assume that it’s the journal of a real live person — not the fiction of a computer program. How can this type of impersonation be right?

Kimball Roundy, creator of the Spider System, has given us something interesting to watch. We’ll get to see how Google and the other search engines cope with his quasi-blogs and how visitors react to them as well. We’ll also get to see if automated blogs are really scalable and if a substantial numbers of people actually make money with them.

Meanwhile please be careful. If you see a low hanging spider web, duck!

Speaking of ducks, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. I wish we could still say that about a blog. ;-)

*Direct Matches happens to be one of my favorite social networking sites. Too bad it’s going to be overrun yet again with spammers. I was so relieved when Pay It Forward fell by the wayside. Now I’ll have to put up with another wave of spamming for a year or so until The Spider Web Marketing System runs its course.

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My tongue in cheek April Fools post Alphabet Wars was right on. Owners of social networking sites are increasingly facing tough naming choices that strain the 26-letter alphabet.

One of the newest players on the online social networking scene is Wowzza. The name tells us little more than that perhaps somebody’s keyboard tends to stick on the letter z. Why another social networking site? What’s different about this site?

Wowzza is an exclusive members-only site, not a free social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or Yuwie. All members are premium members.

Founder Jim Vigilante’s aim is to attract serious marketers and entrepreneurs. Jim is also playing up the referral income potential of Wowzza’s 3×9 forced matrix payout.

In an upcoming post I’ll explain why I am not networking at Wowzza.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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Larry Brauner

List building today isn’t the exclusive domain of autoresponders.

Sure, a reliable autoresponder is still a vital tool if you’re marketing on the Internet. However, online social networking and friend lists ought to weigh more heavily in your permission based marketing strategy.

I started realizing this in 2006 when I first joined MySpace. I noticed how much richer and more effective the two-way communication of social networking sites was than the ongoing monologue associated with e-mail marketing.

I always encourage my e-mail contacts to write me back, but few actually do. And I never learn enough about them, unless of course they choose to join me on MySpace, Facebook, Yuwie or one of the other online networking venues I frequent.

There is another big reason to incorporate online social networking in your online marketing repertoire.

Consider the ease with which you can add thousands of friends on MySpace compared to the cost and difficulty of building your autoresponder list. Whether you use one of the “friend adders” and risk suspension of your profile by the networking site owner, or whether you add friends manually, it’s still much more straightforward to build a permission based marketing list through social networking than it is using more conventional opt-in list building techniques.

I myself do both. I add new subscribers to my autoresponders on a regular basis and simultaneously add new contacts to my friend lists on LinkedIn, MySpace and Yuwie. I have a good reason for doing so.

Not withstanding my previous remarks, it’s easier for me to broadcast a message on demand to my opt-in list than it is to my social networking friends.

Most people check their e-mail at least once a day. If they want to hear from me, they will.

If I post a bulletin on MySpace they can easily miss it. I have to post it several times each day to keep it “on top”. And if they don’t log in, or even worse, if they’ve abandoned their profile, they won’t see the message at all.

So why should you put all your eggs in one basket? Diversify. E-mail people and contact them through multiple sites and through multiple channels on each site to maximize your message delivery and response rate.

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