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Saturday, October 1, 2011

What Social Networks Are Right For You?

You can easily overload yourself with social networks.
Networking is a necessary part of business. You do it in person and over the last several years, networking online has become a part of almost every business and personal marketing model. But when does it get to be too much? You really have to ask, "What social networks are right for you?"

You start by determining what you want to accomplish online. Are you looking to make new friends, locally or around the world? Are you looking to meet a potential partner and form a relationship? Are you looking to find contacts that can help advance your career? Are you looking to expand your business to new markets and need contacts to do it? Are you looking for work or a career change?

Your answers to the above questions will help narrow the field of social networks you want to be part of and spend time on. There are only so many hours in a day and you can't be actively participating on five, six or seven different networks.

Most people should be on the big three: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN - and if you're into video YouTube.

Facebook has 800 million users worldwide, no matter what your objective is, you can benefit from creating a presence on Facebook.

Twitter is where all the tech savvy movers and shakers are. It's fast, it's succinct, you can use it for a variety of reasons - following people in your industry, communicating with team members at work, making new friends, promoting your website or products, etc. Twitter has a plethora of uses and you can develop a strategy to maximize your time on Twitter.

LinkedIN is a must for anyone in business. It is where professionals hang out. Facebook is trying to compete with LinkedIN with their BranchOut offering, but I have yet to figure out why I'd want to use BrankOut. I'm on it. I'm on everything. But I only respond to connection requests on BranchOut.

LinkedIN, through its groups, offers a place where you can interact with other professionals in a targeted manner. It may take a little trial and error to find the groups that work best for you, but they provide a good way to meet people. I've had a number of people who I've met on LinkedIN migrate to being friends on Facebook and interacting with them on Twitter.

As an online networking maven, I sign up for all kinds of sites. There are about a dozen or more that I've signed up for but never returned. I keep the email confirmation with my login and password saved in case I want to go back to any of those sites.

Out of the big three and Google+ (which is still a mystery to me, even though I was in the beta test), the only other site that may be interesting to me is Get Glue. I signed up and never went back, but I'm getting emails every day that I have new followers. I don't even know if I have a profile picture there.

There are niche networks out there, you have to search for them, but they can be very useful, especially if you have something that is worthy of sharing or selling online. I have a friend who produces music. He found a small music site and he's been selling his songs on it. He's active there and has a following. The average person wouldn't normally sign up for this site, but for musicians and music lovers, it's their own little hangout.

Years ago, I signed up for an atheist chat room. I was curious and wanted to have some discussions. After a few months, I took all the bashing I could stand and left. But I did learn a lot of interesting things about science and how angry some people can be.

I probably sign up for more sites than the average person because I'm a content producer and these social networking sites are like putting out another newspaper box for me in a new neighborhood. If I get anything from them, it's a bonus. But for most people, keeping a small group of manageable sites bookmarked is plenty. You really only get results from these sites if you work them. You have to show up, interact, LIKE content, comment, share, endorse, recommend, etc.

If you want to know what social networks are right for you, you really have to clearly define your goals before you start filling out profile after profile. Once you do... have fun... be pleasant... be engaging...  and you will have a great time and get a lot accomplished.

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