Monday, May 7, 2007

Untangling Web 2.0, part 3

posted by Andy Leff
Let's get the week started by picking up where I left off last week. I've laid the groundwork for understanding social networking, creating profiles for your business, and learning best practices for building contacts.

And now the best part: How to leverage those guidelines to build traction for your business.

Like skinning a cat, this can be accomplished in several ways:

Send individual e-mails. A feature of every social network is a personal Inbox where you can send messages to your contacts and other members. By crafting clear, well-focused, short messages, you can pass along brief information about your business.

This works well when you want to converse quickly with one person. They're also good for individual follow-up questions about your company.

However, sending e-mails one at a time is time consuming. And if they're not short and punchy, the receiver might not even read it. So it's important to quickly and succinctly sneak your message in.

Comment on your contacts' profile pages. Leaving a friendly hello on your contacts' profiles is a good way to get to know your neighbors and form relationships. Once you build rapport, you can try subtly plugging your product, service, or business in your comment.

You can take it a step further by adding an occasional picture or video to your comments. Think of commenting as a public e-mail. Anyone who comes across that person's profile can see it. Also a bit time-consuming, but it's a great way to market yourself, have people stumble upon you, and request you to be part of their contacts.

Post bulletins. This is where the real bang comes from. Posting bulletins basically means sending mass e-mail to your contacts. However, instead of going to your contacts' Inboxes, the message is posted in their internal bulletin boards page. This way, you can efficiently spread your message to your entire network without clogging mailboxes.

Just go to the internal bulletin board (MySpace has the best one), click 'post new bulletin,' and type a message. It's in the same format as e-mail, so use the same guidelines that you would for any e-mail message.

Start and join groups. You can form groups about ANYTHING -- from the serious, such as Green Thumbs (if you have a landscaping business), to the wacky, such as People Who Love Cherry-Flavored Lollipops (if you love cherry-flavored lollipops). Then you invite members to join.

You can use groups in a few ways to build traction for your business. One is to form a focus group, and ask members for their opinions on your products and business. People will usually be honest -- whether positively or negatively -- especially the college kids. If they think you are selling junk, they will tell you exactly that.

The key is not to get discouraged by negative comments, and instead dig deeper to find out why that comment was posted. How do you do this? Simply use the e-mail function, and do a follow-up with that particular person in the way I outlined above. (See how all these tools eventually come together? They make life a heck of a lot easier.)

Likewise, be on the lookout for groups to join. You can easily search for groups by topic, and click to join them. You can view the members' profiles, too. It's a great way to network and build more relationships with other like-minded people.

Blog within the community. I've talked about blogs so much lately that I'm blue in the face. So, check out my 13 blog tips. They all apply to blogging within a social network, since there's no difference between having a blog on your personal Web page, or within a social network.

The purpose is the same: Opine on your passion, cultivate an audience, and get people talking about your business. A blog on a social network can act as your everyday blog if you want. Just direct all your clients to that blog through your social network profile.

This might look like a ton of stuff to digest, but if you look at it piece by piece, you'll see that none of it is tough to do. Plus, you don't even have to be tech-savvy. That's the beauty of the Web 2.0 revolution, as it makes the Internet accessible to anyone. And now that the Web is untangled, it's more understandable, too!

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