Over the past few weeks my participation (if you can call it that) has been increasing on social networks. I’m part of Twitter, FaceBook, Myspace, LinkedIn and Hi5.
These social networks are different yet all have one common goal – to link people together. It’s not just the dedicated social networks that are cropping but also Netflix (making it easier for movie viewers of common interest to connect), Plaxo and others are adding social dimensions for their members.
Webware, part of Cnet has a podcast on using social networks and Forbes writes about being ‘too social’ here.
The over riding way to get the most out of these social networks is to know what you want to do with them. In some ways, we’ve all probably signed on to one or more of these networks because we received an invitation from a friend. In some cases we’ve heard about them from reading somewhere and and decided to try them out.
I’ve found that the most useful tool by far is LinkedIn. Like most of these tools it’s a “passive” tool and you’ll only get something out of it if you need to find someone are you really want to keep up with what your friends are doing, like in the case of Twitter.
The power of LinkedIn, is that if I’m looking for someone or a company I can search for them on LinkedIn and then see if someone in my immediate or extended network of contacts knows them. LinkedIn is ideal for connected you to people who you don’t have a direct connection with. Similarly, Jigsaw, a network, I’m not part of yet, is another way to find contacts. The more contacts you add, the more contacts you can access for free. Or add nothing and just pay to have access to contacts.
FaceBook is a way to keep your “friends” (be your friends business folk or whatever) organized. You can update your profile and put news in your Facebook so people know what you are doing and other things. But I’ve found little business use for it. Keep in mind how Facebook started, as a way for college kids to network with each other and post the weekend’s party photos. Interesting enough, however, many people in my professional network are on Facebook (of course LinkedIn) so I’m using it more and more.
MySpace is good if you want to reach the “youth market” and you have a band or sell youth oriented t-shirts for example. It has a lot of features to add multimedia to your MySpace account so it’s good for a music label, for example, who wants a web site with lots of color and buzz in the midst of its target market. For B2B business use there’s other social networking tools you’d want to consider.
Twitter is pretty interesting. You can send short notes to the entire Twitter audience and/or to those who have selected to follow your twitter updates. You can track Twitter posts via RSS feeds, IM or phone something the others sites don’t provide.
There are dozens and dozens of social networking sites on the Internet and some in fact are mash-ups of existing sites. I personally wouldn’t spend all day wasting time on many of them, but would take the time to explore a few of the more popular ones like LinkedIn and Jigsawy that could be good boosters for your business.
Going to face-to-face meetings is important – never lose the human dimension of meeting someone in person. But being able to maximize and leverage a few social networks to enhance your business even more is a big plus.
Business Week has a nice “pro” and “con” article on social networking here
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