Face it, does your favorite college buddy really want to hear about your latest career conquest? Or is she more interested in seeing those embarrassing family photos from your recent camping trip disaster? On the flip side, does your newest client really want to see the latest YouTube video of your kid’s preschool graduation, or is he expecting professional updates that will make him more confident about hiring you in the future?
There are hundreds of social networking websites out there and, just like the different people in your life, you need to use them to showcase yourself and your ideas in appropriate ways.
Finding the Right Fit for Social Networking
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to social networking, although the core idea is to open yourself up on a more personal level. As a businesswoman hoping to use the Internet to sell a product or service, you need to strike a fine balance between promoting yourself professionally and opening up honestly, and you need to find the right online media to do each (or both) effectively.
Every business owner needs to have a presence on the social web. However, that does not mean you have to be in all places, or all things to all people. Rather than trying to navigate the ultra personal and high-traffic sites like MySpace or Facebook to showcase your expertise, take time to explore one of the hundreds of niche websites that may prove a better platform for your outreach. One way to find suitable niche sites is to do a Google search on “social networking websites.” Wikipedia alone lists hundreds of active social networking sites by name, topic and number of registered users.
Once you find the right social networking sites for you and your business, your primary strategy should be to build meaningful relationships that engage your audience. Social networking sites should never be used for hard sales. They are a place to share ideas and communicate in a personal way. The more you share your personal side with readers and “friends” the stronger they will feel about you and your work.
As I said before, there is no single approach that works best in social networking, because each site and friend group is unique. However, by taking the following steps you can make your social networking profile stand out from the crowd and influence your core online friend group.
1. Post comments and update your profile frequently.
The more often you update your Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, the more reasons you give fans, contacts and friends to come back and visit. Each time you update your profile or post a comment or link, that information becomes available to all your friends via the news feed feature, or in some cases an email alert. The news feed feature even opens the information to friends of friends and is an effective way to take information viral. Avoid posting mundane things, such as what you had for lunch. Instead, post links, updates and information that are related to your brand and mission, and that help to establish credibility and expertise in your field.
2. Upload photos.
Photos capture attention. Colorful, interesting photos help your profile stand out in the news feeds and communicate a human element to your work. If you work in a particular industry, it’s a good idea to post photos of yourself that promote that industry or brand. For example, a composer could post photos of herself with famous musicians or at a recent show.
3. Join groups.
Joining specific groups like those on LinkedIn and Facebook, opens you and your work up to more networks and potential fans. Post something on the wall of each group to get attention. Start by finding your university alumni group, industry specific groups, or local professional organizations. Once you join and get a feel for the online community, start making your ideas and profile known by posting several times a month. This will help build your contact base, as you will be communicating directly with like-minded people.
4. Keep track of who is talking about you.
Once you start actively promoting yourself or your company online via the social networking sites, you are opening the door to two-way communication. You want to keep on top of what people are saying about you and your work, both negative and positive. This way you can address fan concerns or play off “hot topics” and ideas your fans may have.
An easy way to monitor where your stories and name are being picked up is by signing up for Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). Simply use your company name or your own name as the keyword item and you can get daily or weekly emails each time Google finds your name online. You never know where you might end up!
Final Notes on Social Marketing Optimization Strategies
Trying to cover all the new media opportunities at once can be overwhelming for any business. After all, for the Obama campaign to take on the social web required about $8 million, a high level, full-time marketing staff, hundreds of volunteers, and a passionate public to help propel the messages even further. As busy entrepreneurs, we need to stay tightly focused on our goals when attempting to use social networking to promote our businesses. With so many social networking avenues available today, it is easy to waste time thinking “more is better.” In reality, its best to focus on a few niche sites that make sense for your brand and that provide you with an avenue where you can truly have an impact.
We are still in the early stages of discovering what works best for different industries and companies on the social web. As the space evolves, we are continuing to see new ideas and best practices emerge. While in the past, Internet marketing has focused on reach, acquisition and conversion, the social web is about engagement and getting involved in meaningful conversations with your audience in a transparent way. With that said, get creative, have fun and start testing your ideas. Use the social networking sites to share ideas, create value, get feedback, show your expertise, humor, personal side. Test, test, test until you find a formula that works to achieve your marketing goals. And if you’ve found a strategy that is working well for you, I’d like to hear about it! Email me at
and share your tips and tricks for using social media to promote your business. I may feature your story in my next article or upcoming book.
About the Author
Holly Berkley is a professional Internet Marketing Consultant and teaches Interactive Marketing at San Diego State University. She is the author of Low Budget Online Marketing for Small Business and Marketing in the New Media. Learn more about Holly Berkley, her books and recent media appearances at http://www.MarketingInTheNewMedia.com