Every day in business, you're either looking for a solution to a problem or you want to be the solution to somebody else's problem. In an effort to achieve those two goals, we network. Online social networking has become the de rigueur method used today--and sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer the promise of extending your reach and making useful business contacts.
But the efficacy of online social networking for business
And there's no simple formula that indicates how much time we need to spend on social networking sites in order to see results with an increasing number of useful contacts and improved business growth.
Build Your Presence
Three of the most popular social networking applications--Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--have risen to become standard tools that are used across all industries and interests. While setting up a complete profile on these applications should be one of your
A complete profile is welcoming, so be sure to take the time to fill out all the public information, from past job history to current employment, that you want people to know. An incomplete profile screams, "Since I didn't have time to finish this profile, I don't have time to participate in this social network or to talk to you."
Being easy to reach
One important note: Don't discount the networking value of your e-mail signature. Beyond your position and e-mail address, include in your signature both your best contact information and links to your blog and LinkedIn profile. People you contact will want to investigate who you are, and if they like what they see, they'll want to follow up.
Clean Up What's Already Online
You probably already have an online presence on a variety of sites. You should definitely clean up inactive profiles and compromising content, says David McClure, producer of the Graphing Social Patterns conference, which focuses on
If you find something truly damaging, you can send a request to the poster to remove the information. Both Spock and Zoominfo will update or delete personal information on request.
And in the future, be careful what you post online, whether it's a photo, a blog post, or even a public bookmark. All such items can be tied back to your online profiles and be easily seen, especially if you subscribe to a life-streaming application such as FriendFeed.
Grow Your Network
To help you quickly realize the benefits of social networking, most services will assist your
The next step is usually to spam the rest of your contacts with an invite to join the social network--but think twice before you select that option. Not everyone you know will appreciate being spammed, and such messages tend not to generate
Other ways you can grow your network: Repeat your address-book scan periodically, not just because you add new contacts, but because people already in your contacts database will eventually join these services. Also, you can rewrite the generic greeting, "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn," with something a little more personal. It'll result in many more accepted invites.
After you've begun to grow a network on Facebook, you should check the "People You May Know" option on the front page to look for people with whom you may have friends in common. Repeat this step periodically, as
Lastly, if you think someone you're inviting may not remember you, send a personal invitation explaining how you know each other. Don't rely on the blanket invite.
Once you're all set up, you should begin to get out in the real world and use both your social network's calendar and the listings in event sites like Upcoming and Workit to find events of interest to your business. Facebook will also help you
Most people don't follow up when they exchange business cards. You should. Get through them quickly by purchasing a business card scanner--such as one from CardScan--that will import contacts straight into