Social Networking: How to Stop Wasting Your Time and Make it Work!

Social networking is hitting a critical mass.  Whether it’s well known sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn or extremely specific sites such as (genealogy) and, these days you can find a social networking website on virtually any topic you can think of.  With new social networking sites coming online every day, the problem isn’t “Should I or shouldn’t I?” but “Which ones should I use and how do I get the most out of them?”

On the down side, social networking can seem like a waste of time.  The typical frustration goes something like, “I created a profile on LinkedIn but I haven’t gotten anything out of it.  It seems like there’s something to it but I can’t figure it out.”  If this sounds familiar, your problem is that you’re trying to figure out how to get clients from social networking.  I know you’re thinking “Isn’t that what it’s for?!” and you’re right; it is.  But that’s only one of the many purposes of social networking.

On the plus side, if you treat social networking as a way to meet and get to know a variety of people who might be able to lead you to new business, it’s a great long term marketing tool.  While your ultimate goal may be to get clients, if you broaden your perspective there are many potential reasons for using social networking, such as…

  • Keeping tabs on clients, colleagues and former co-workers
  • Connecting with potential employees or subcontractors
  • Sharing expertise
  • Finding information or asking questions
  • Getting feedback (or venting!)
  • Meeting people with similar interests
  • …and finding business!

3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Make Social Networking Work

People tend to sign up for the social networking websites on the spur of the moment. They create a profile and forget it.  But for social networking requires ongoing participation which means you need to choose which sites you sign up for carefully. Here are three questions to ask yourself before you start deciding which social networking websites to participate in:

  • Who Are You Looking For?
    Are you looking for clients, employees, subcontractors, or resources? Assuming you’re primarily looking for clients or customers, who are they?  What industries do they work in?
  • What are they looking for?
    This is where the effort you’ve put into learning as much as you can about your target market(s) pays off. What questions do the have? What topics do they want to learn about? What problems do they need to solve? What else are they interested in?
  • Where do they hang out online?
    Social networking isn’t just about using social networking websites. There are many ways to connect online.  What websites do they visit? What blogs do they read? Who do they trust and do those people have websites?

Tips for Using Social Networking Effectively

Put all the pieces of your social networking profile in one file or folder. Most social networking sites tend to ask the same questions so when you sign up for a new one, having all this stuff in one place will reduce this task from an hour or more to less than ten minutes.  Furthermore, as marketing and networking online becomes common (and it will), having this information will come in handy when you’re invited to create a profile for the online version of professional organizations or a speaker’s bio.  (Here’s a list of what to include in your social networking profile.)

Check out the site before you add your profile. With hundreds of social networking sites out there and new ones coming online every week, it’s easy to find social networking sites that look good but have very little traffic.  Check out a site for while before joining. Make sure they have more than a handful of participating members and that their members are the people you want to meet.

Customize your profile to the site. While it’s good to have a basic profile, never assume it will work in all circumstances. Be ready tweak your profile depending on the tone of the site and our purpose for joining.

Contribute information to the site when possible. Some sites like Biznik allow you to add articles, tips or white papers.  LinkedIn has an area where you can answer questions.  These are excellent tools that will increase views of your profile and will give people a reason to contact you.  But!  Be sure that your article is appropriate for the audience.  Spend some time reading popular articles to determine what information this group values, and then re-read your article and tweak as needed. Doing so can mean the difference between sounding like a super-genius or hopelessly out of touch.

Make social networking part of your daily or weekly routine. Depending on how valuable a site is to you, you might visit the site once a day, once a week or once every few weeks.  To make it part of your regular routine, work it into your email time.

Participate! Just like face-to-face networking, you get out if it what you put into it.  Increasingly, social networking sites are making it easier for you to interact with other members.  If you lurk in the background, you won’t get much out of it.  If you add content or comment on existing comment, you will build relationships online.

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    Elgé Premeau is a wonderful person to work with. First, she has the patience of Job. Second, she is a nice person who makes you feel comfortable to interact with. Third, she will work together with you, to make sure that your tastes and opinions are taken into account. Last but not least, she is talented and she's dedicated to excellence. Not a bad combination, that!

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