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Week Five Social Media Series: Which Social Media Sites Should I Use for My Strategy? Part Three: Networking

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October 3,2012
To wrap up our discussion about social media strategy, this week we’ll offer viable social media sites and platforms you can use to implement a networking strategy.
Disclaimer: What follows are only suggested sites and/or platforms, and ways of using them. There may be other platforms that can work just as well—or even better—for your business and needs. All sites and platforms mentioned below work toward the goal of creating more awareness about your business by increasing networking opportunities.

LinkedIn allows you to create a profile for yourself and one for your business. Users share information such as work history, affiliations and groups, and skills and areas of expertise, while company profiles highlight products and services, job openings, and employee information.
Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn lets you make “connections” to other users—either people you know or don’t know—who can then become part of your network.
Though not as universally popular as Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the Internet, and more than two million companies now have LinkedIn Company Pages.* With the one-two punch of promoting both your business and yourself (as a representative of your business), LinkedIn gives you a well-rounded way to get involved and make waves.
Get started by registering with LinkedIn and create a profile for yourself. Also make sure to add your company profile to the Companies list. You can check out LinkedIn’s Help Center for help with managing your account, editing your profile, and answers to most other questions.
To capitalize on LinkedIn’s networking capabilities, make sure you’re doing the following:
  • Keep your profile information current and update your status often
  • Make yourself available by displaying your email address on your profile and enabling the ability for people to contact you
  • Promote your business website on your profile; conversely, include your LinkedIn URL on your email signature, your website, or even your Facebook profile
  • Join a group—or start one—related to your niche, industry, and/or interests
  • In addition to the people you already know, connect with influencers you’d like to know by sending them a personalized message saying how you’ve heard of them, and why it might be beneficial to be connected
From interest groups to job listings and everything in between, with a little effort you can use LinkedIn to tap into a variety of business leads and opportunities.
Your investment: No cost to sign up for the basic account, which is probably all you’ll need; however, there are premium accounts and upgrades available; time involved managing and updating your profile as well as giving status updates.
We talked about Twitter in the previous article “What Social Media Sites Should I Use for My Strategy? Part Two: Customer Service Improvement.” You can refer to that article to get a quick overview of Twitter.
When it comes to networking, Twitter makes for a great playing field. Using relatively short and sweet posts (tweets) and giving its users the ability to share breaking news and start dialogues—all in real time—interactions become meaningful quickly. Users learn who they want to follow and what is worth their time. Relevance becomes especially important.
If you haven’t already, get started by signing up for an account. Then use Twitter to help you network in the following ways:
  • Follow topics, conversations, and people that interest you; though not guaranteed, the people you follow may start following you, thus completing the circle and giving you the opportunity for direct contact
  • Use the name of your business as your Twitter handle; for example, if your business name is Best Floral, your handle could be @BestFloral
  • Listen closely to the conversations of other businesses like yours, and then give thoughtful responses; this draws attention to yourself in a positive way
  • Use hashtags to follow trends & themes important to your industry and identify others that also participate in the conversations
  • Establish some mode of tweeting frequency: the more you tweet, the more you can grow your network of followers
  • When attending a business event, tweet about your thoughts and experiences, which encourages others in the crowd who use Twitter to comment as well, therefore making it a more enriching experience overall
  • Answer questions, post photos, and even post links to news articles or videos
As everything becomes more interconnected, cross-promote your Twitter handle on traditional marketing material such as your business cards and packaging, as well as on your website, blog, and other social media sites in which you participate.
Your investment: No cost to sign up; time involved to listen, tweet, and manage your Twitter feed(s).
Ryze, Talkbiznow, and Focus
Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of these sites. But do know that some of the lesser-known social media sites have their merits, especially when it comes to more focused and niche networking for small businesses.
Ryze—with a network of more than 600,000 members—provides a list of perks such as your own networking-oriented page, tips and resources from professionals in your field, and the ability to make quality contacts and broker deals through other Ryze members. You can apply for free membership or pay for a month of gold membership. Learn more about Ryze and its mission on their About page.
Talkbiznow provides a place for you to network, collaborate with, promote and do business with other small businesses online via such services as messaging, reminders, webinars, voice conferencing, advertisements, blogs, calendars, and more. Sign up for free and learn more about Talkbiznow on their About and Overview pages.
Focus is a two-pronged service. First, you can create content around what you know using their content management platform, effectively turning yourself into an expert for Focus and its members. Second, and perhaps even more notably, you can connect with other leading business experts by participating in Q&As with them, accessing their research, and signing up for roundtables and events.  Join Focus for free, and check out their FAQs and About Us pages to learn more.

Now What?
The information we gave you here should give you a running start to implementing a networking strategy. 
Overall, the biggest takeaway from our discussion of social media strategies is to always keep your goals and strategy in mind. If your post, tweet, or blog article does not follow your particular strategy—whatever it may be—then don’t bother. 
Additionally, set the precedent with your audience that what you’re giving them is relevant and interesting. When you take this approach, you keep them engaged, you eliminate needless interactions that take you off-path, and you can be sure your valuable time and resources are being used effectively. Take note of the reactions and responses you receive. The feedback is invaluable and provides insight that can both help what types of messages you should share, but ultimately, can help understand the needs of your audience and guide the products and services you deliver. 
Up next: measurement. How and what should you measure to understand your individual level of success? We’ll talk about that next week in our final article in this series “What Should I Be Measuring within My Social Media Strategy?”

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