There are many social networking sites that you can join but the most important for practical purposes are these. We ran a fairly detailed survey into how small service companies promote themselves and it turns out that Linked-in was definitely considered the most important by our interviewees (although there were many Ecademy users, they formed a large part of the recruitment cohort).
We are going to review 3 social networking sites and the way they are used – and the social etiquette that is used on each platform.
|Connection Mechanism||Look at profile – ask to connect||Ask to connect||Ask to connect if you know them. Get introduced if you don’t|
|Can you see profile of someone you’re not connected with||Yes||No||Yes|
|Primary Use||Business + Social||Social||Business|
|Typical User||Small Business||Individual||Corporate|
|Connection Style||Random||Amongst Friends||Deliberate|
|Groups and Clubs||yes||yes||Yes|
|Rich Media Friendly||A bit||Yes||No|
Ecademy is one of the smaller networking sites but it’s a good place to start –the subscription is £10 per month. While it allows you to network online and offline with 100,000 other members worldwide (6,000 of which are active). It also lets you
- Create blogs
- Advertise in the Market Place
- Form special interest clubs
- Take part in discussions, seek advice from other members or give advice in response to the posts of others
If you devote time to learning to use it – it really is a school of online marketing.
There are 2 unique features which make Ecademy important:
It runs face to face meetings as well as supporting online networking. So you can meet potential referees and collaborators and set up one to ones more effectively than you would in a pure online situation like on Facebook.
There is so much user created content on Ecademy that Google looks at it every day and anything you post there, if you have optimised your autosignature properly will deliver a search engine linking bonus. Every time you Blog on the Ecademy front page, an interested reader’s click on your autosignature boosts your Google profile. The more interactive the discussion the more opportunity for click backs and the more your brand profile is raised.
You can have a comprehensive profile – with embedded YouTube video and although it takes time to learn to drive, it definitely has a pivotal role in an online marketing strategy. It will let you contact all of your connections that you have made once a month. Or members of any clubs you have set up.
Facebook originated as a Harvard student project and now has 30 million members world-wide. It’s a social networking platform that welcomes external applications. It blurs boundaries between ‘professional’ and ‘social’ worlds. This can be fine if you live a blameless life. You can also guarantee that publishing your email address will generate spam beyond your wildest dreams. Many people choose to keep it purely social.
Can it be used for business applications effectively?
Special interest groups can be created on relevant topics. See for example, ‘Facebook for Business’ or indeed “How to do Business” which seems to have acquired 600 members with very little energy being applied. RSS feeds can pull in content from your Blog or other source – a special WordPress application allows basic Blog management from within Facebook.
Facebook Flyers can be accessed from the ‘advertisers’ section at the bottom of your profile page. The flyer can create localised awareness that can be targeted to individual locations. The message may be all text or include a small photo or graphic element.
If you want to reach people from Generation Y as employees or customers it may be worth spending some time with it.
It’s particularly good for allowing other people to build applications to run within it and has done very well with easily importing pictures and videos
You can contact all your contacts and members of any groups that you have set up.
If you are selling products to the demographic that may use Facebook, then a fan page can quite successful – we’ve done quite well with our fan page for The Intelligent Garden.
Linked-in is the most transactional of the social media networks. Thomas Power of Ecademy describes it as networking American Style.
You create a profile in the same way – but it’s much more structured and targeted. You can only connect with people directly if you already know them (or at least their email address).
It works very much on the basis of levels of connection. You have a first circle of people that you are directly connected to, a 2nd circle of their connections and a 3rd circle of their connections. You have access to these people but only by invitation.
If I want to connect to a specific individual I can search for something like “Google vice president” This will produce a list of people. Here is one who’s a senior programmer in Krakow. Apparently 14 people who know me know someone who knows him. If I want to contact him I send one of my contacts a message saying why I want to get in contact with him and ask them to pass the request on via their contacts. If everyone feels comfortable I get an introduction to him and we can connect.
It’s used a lot by people who are recruiting or doing structured selling particularly into or out of the corporate sector. So its connection criteria are strict. You should only connect with people that you know well so that you can refer them with some degree of integrity.
This is quite different from the situation in Ecademy where you can easily make totally random connections with anyone or Facebook where you can easily search the networks of people you already know and ask to connect to anyone that looks interesting.
However the reason that it has become the online networking tool of choice for our sample is because as well as finding specific people you can join groups where you can get known by asking and answering questions and so find your key 50 players in a systematic way.
If you are trying to recruit individuals for a specific event, or get people to reply to a questionnaire, the transactional, focused and systematic approach of linked-in means it’s a good place to get results.
It’s truly come of age since it created the ability to form discussion groups. These have been regularly set up by professional bodies such as the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Marketing and gives the media savvy entrepreneur the opportunity to establish your reputation on topics directly relating to your core expertise.
Some of the larger forums are quite powerful. Experience shows that it takes up to 1000 members of a forum before it takes on a life of its own. One good example is the Pro Marketing Forum which is now rapidly becoming a powerhouse of information with currently about 30 discussions being started off each day.
Twitter is something that you need to know about – even if it doesn’t suit your business at this point. Like many things in the online world it has quite suddenly gone through a transformation. From being something that was the private space of geeks and technical journalists to something that’s becoming part of the daily toolkit of web-aware marketers.
It’s important because its permission marketing writ large. People decide to follow you if they think what you have to say is fun or useful. If you bore them – they’ll abandon you.
Effectively it’s microblogging. You have 140 characters to get your message across – better than a Google ad – but not much. Its benefit is you can include a link to something you want people to know about – a Blog post, an invitation to and event, a special offer.
Like everything else in the networking world being interesting and conversing rather than broadcasting is what will build your personal brand. That and being authentic. This is where the small business has a real advantage over the corporate. You can use your passion and belief in your product and your team to advantage.
The way to manage it is to use a tool like tweet later to automate your “business” posts. You can then dip in and out to chat with your colleagues, re-tweet things you thing will interest your followers and generally use it as a platform to inform and entertain. If you keep the proportion of promotional posts to around 15% it should be fine.
People are regularly saying that they are getting more business through twitter than other channels these days – if they are known subject experts. Twitter will help you build a following. To put it in context I have nearly 1000 followers on twitter (in a year) compared to 3650 on Ecademy which has taken 5 years. A mention of a Blog post in a link as part of a reply this morning has had 10 people look at it.
The other great thing is you can link RSS feeds to it via utilities like twitterfeed which effectively collects RSS feeds and sends to the link. There are other tools which are useful in supporting it – Tweetdeck to help you sort the conversations out, Twtpwr to build small urls to post etc. I won’t bore you with these here – if you’re interested you can always contact me or follow me at http://www.twitter.com/alanrae
It acts effectively as a connecting tool also – you can route blogs and other posts via twitter to end user destinations in Facebook, for example