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.


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.


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.


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
  • 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?

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 Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web.

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26 Responses to “Targeting and Connecting on the Top Business Networking Sites”

  1. Janet Helft on August 3rd, 2009 7:55 am

    Great post!

    I too find LinkedIn challenging in terms of connecting to people, so thanks for the tips on LION groups.

    Twitter tools to help you find the right people to follow and build in some automation are Twellow (the yellow pages of Twitter) and Tweetspinner.

    Tweetspinner is a great (free) tool for automating the building of followers in your target market as you can specify keywords for finding people in your target market. It also doesn’t hijack your account by sending tweets about itself through your Twitter ID like some do.

    Finally, I notice you don’t include Ecademy in your list of networking sites, another one focused on business and easier to build a network than on LinkedIn. Any reason why?

    Janet Helft
    Author of ‘Social Media Marketing in 30 Minutes a Day’

  2. Twitter Job Finder on August 3rd, 2009 11:12 am

    Some great advice on using Twitter.

    Job seekers often don’t realize that a lot of jobs are posted straight on Twitter — though it can take a lot of patience to find them.

    That’s one reason why we created Twitter Job Finder, to make life a bit easier for the job seeker.

  3. Larry Brauner on August 3rd, 2009 11:54 am

    Thank you Janet for your Twitter resource suggestions.

    Ecademy has made somewhat of a comeback this year, but sites such as Ecademy and Ryze are not quite in the same traffic league as the four sites I featured, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning.

    Ecademy is ranked 6,241 in Alexa, and Ryze is ranked 19,678.

    I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  4. Debbie Morgan on August 3rd, 2009 1:20 pm

    Hi Larry!

    Thanks for this great information. Now I just need time to implement some of the targeting ideas you mention.


  5. Larry Brauner on August 3rd, 2009 1:37 pm

    Just remember Deb, we all have the same time in a day. It’s our priorities that differ.

  6. Steve on August 3rd, 2009 6:27 pm

    Larry, I have been influenced by listening recently to two very influential social networkers who have stated they rarely follow back. The main reason is that they don’t want to follow just anyone who follows them before getting to know them. And, having looked through some of my followers, I have had to block quite a few spammers. So I don’t think I would automatically want to follow them. Thoughts?

  7. Larry Brauner on August 3rd, 2009 7:32 pm

    In general Steve, I’m from the cast a wide net when it doesn’t cost you anything school. I don’t like being too fussy about whom I accept as a connection.

    On Facebook, casting a wide net does have a cost, an opportunity cost, since we’re limited to 5,000 friends. Members have a real profile on Facebook, not one that’s limited to 160 characters, so I can make an intelligent decision whether or not to accept an invitation.

    On Twitter, once you’ve adopted a strategy of following more than a few hundred people, casting a wide net has no cost.

    Either you can follow my advice above of following back anybody who doesn’t look like a spammer, or you can take the self correcting approach which is to follow everybody back.

    I say self correcting, because spammers are eventually discovered and deleted.

    Incidentally, there’s a new form of Twitter spam that doesn’t require following, and that’s reply-spam. Spammers use @ messages to break into our reply streams.

    Some of the biggest networkers on Twitter, people such as @JoelComm and @WarrenWhitlock, follow nearly everybody back.

    So I say, cast a wide net when you can, and delete anybody who becomes a nuisance, on any of the business networking sites.

  8. Nikhil Vaswani on August 5th, 2009 4:12 am

    There are a lot of sites with a lot of uses! But I guess, soon one will see convergence in social networking sites. Much like the search engines where Google has emerged as the leader. Till that point of time, its up to us to utilize the above sites to the maximum.

    By the way, if you are looking to make the most of your LinkedIn account, check out networking expert Jan Vermeiren’s new book “How to REALLY use LinkedIn”. For starters, you can download a free lite version.

  9. Larry Brauner on August 5th, 2009 11:35 am

    Hi Nikhil,

    I just downloaded the light version. It’s about 70 pages long. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Thank you for reading my blog and commenting.

  10. Karen McGreevey on August 5th, 2009 3:06 pm

    Once again, Larry, you’ve come up with a most useful “how to” for “targeting and connecting on the top social sites”.

    For Twitter, I also use providing helpful tips as a means to connect.

    Although I recognize the value of Twittering and Facebooking, as well as using LinkedIn, I still haven’t quite got my activities to where I’m consistently doing it.

    Additionally, I have seen some Twitterers that spam and others who offer untoward services. Fortunately, we can pick and choose with whom we associate.

    I do like Facebook because there seems to be no “character count” restrictions.

    And I also appreciate your suggestions for how to respond to Tweets.

    Thank you.

  11. Larry Brauner on August 5th, 2009 3:21 pm

    I do agree Karen that there’s no limit to the number of characters you can find on Facebook.

    All kidding aside, each business networking site has it’s own unique (I want to say character, but I won’t) set of opportunities and limitations, and each site requires tailored strategies and tactics. (Still some of the old chess player in me. LOL)

  12. Wayne Gibbins on August 6th, 2009 6:19 am

    Hi Larry – a really interesting post and some great tips for getting the most out of these platforms in a professional capacity.

    This topic is particularly interesting to me as I work for the professional social network Viadeo.

    Recently we’ve noticed that people are increasingly using professional social networks for more real-time conversation rather than purely for recruitment and we expect this trend to continue.

    Over the coming months we’re going to be incorporating more real-time communication functions and open social tools into our service to cater to this demand.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!



  13. Larry Brauner on August 6th, 2009 10:23 am

    Thank you Wayne.

    Viadeo has really taken off this year. Very impressive!

    I’m became a basic member of Viadeo a while back but shied away from using it because of its French bias.

    Xing has also taken off this year. I joined Xing too, but I shied away from using it because of its German bias.

    The tremendous growth of these two social networking sites suggests that their membership bases have greatly widened and are probably much less geographically skewed.

    Right now much of my focus is on building my consulting practice, but perhaps this fall I’ll have time to take a fresh look at Viadeo and Xing.

  14. Ki on August 6th, 2009 10:22 pm

    I have read your post with great interest. I have just started with my blog and I hope to be guided by the ideas I am picking from you to really get my blog to where I want it to be.

    Thanks a lot!

  15. Larry Brauner on August 6th, 2009 10:48 pm

    Good luck with your blog Ki.

    Have a look at these two past articles of mine:

  16. Morgan Mandel on August 7th, 2009 12:14 am

    I get so many Ning invitations every day it gets hard to choose from them. I don’t accept as many any more, since I’ve got at least 30 I now belong to. Some of the same people keep branching off and forming new sites, which is a waste of time. I don’t want to keep following the same people around, since I wouldn’t be promoting much that way.

    Morgan Mandel

  17. Larry Brauner on August 7th, 2009 9:30 am

    I join a new Ning site pretty much every week Morgan and post my profile and RSS feed.

  18. kate stevens on August 8th, 2009 12:25 am

    There are so many fantastic ways you can use all of these social networking sites to promote or market your own business or site. Thanks for adding all of the great tips that I did not know about before.

  19. chris o. on August 13th, 2009 5:30 pm

    There are many good articles here. Thanks for sharing.

    Did you catch [my article] earlier today?

    Business Networking Versus Social Networking 3 Key Differences

    Chris O.
    Referral Key
    Your Trusted Business Network

  20. Larry Brauner on August 13th, 2009 5:48 pm

    I just read your article Chris.

    While I take exception to all of your main points, I do agree with you that social networking is not free.

    The time we spend using social networking sites, whether for business or just plain fun, has an opportunity cost.

  21. Perry Davis on October 2nd, 2009 9:15 am

    Larry another great post.

    You wrote:

    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.

    I am guilty.

    What would you suggest to use?

  22. Larry Brauner on October 2nd, 2009 9:31 am


    I use something as simple and direct as:

    “Hi Perry. I’m looking to connect with fellow social media enthusiasts.”

    I added more than eighty new friends this week who share my interest in social media.

    One word of caution though. Don’t stick to any formula. Say what’s real for you at the time.

  23. Target and Connect on Top Networking Sites : Caren Libby's Blog on October 27th, 2009 8:47 pm

    […] a Comment A recent post from covered Targeting and Connecting on the Top Business Networking Sites. The article does an excellent job of describing some of the differences between Facebook, Twitter, […]

  24. Maria Parenteau on December 24th, 2009 9:38 pm

    Thanks Larry, you made the whole thing look easy.

  25. Wayne Gibbins on November 3rd, 2010 4:20 pm

    Hi Larry,

    Hope you managed to get to grips with Viadeo this year. We’ve had a great year and continue to grow rapidly as you say.

    Pleased we announced our San Francisco office opening this year, 30 millionth member back in April and integration with Outlook and Lotus Notes so a pretty exciting year.

    Happy to keep you up-to-date if it helps



  26. Larry Brauner on November 3rd, 2010 8:59 pm

    I am interested, Wayne, in learning more about Viadeo. I’m a member but haven’t used your site enough.

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