Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking bridges and enablers

Posted in social networking and business, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on January 27, 2010

I had a very interesting and informative meeting today with a LinkedIn networking consultant and I wanted to share some thoughts here that stem from that. The colleague I met with writes, presents seminars and workshops and consults with individual clients on how to make effective use of online social networking in business, and with a particular focus on using LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn for business marketing and development too, and as a resource for developing effective business intelligence. In fact it was LinkedIn and the process of setting up and maintaining my profile there and starting to network through it that got me actively involved in Web 2.0 and the interactive web, and certainly as they go beyond simply adding interactivity to more traditional web sites. So I set up my profile to use as a readily available and sharable online e-brochure. Then I started to grow my LinkedIn connections network as I began to see real value in that. And I have picked up on other features and functionalities of the site as they have come out and as I have found specific value in using them too.

My colleague focuses primarily on LinkedIn and we talked about that, and also about blogging, as that is an area she wishes to expand into in her use of interactive online to promote her business. We discussed some of the points I have found of importance from my own experience and from information shared with me by networking colleagues and that brings me to this posting and some of the points I would share with you here.

The first is that LinkedIn and other social networking resources of its type are useful and important but their real value can best be found in integrating them and their use into a more comprehensive picture. Let me focus on the online side of that here, and cite blogging again, and also toss in Twitter as working examples. These and other tools and options all carry their own intrinsic value and usage capabilities, but assembling a campaign that includes a mix of online connectivity and sharing resources is where the real synergy is.

YouTube and a wide range of other tools and modes of interactive could be added here, but my intent with this posting is not simply to recapitulate the circumstances that led me to list a bunch of resources (about 200) as I did in 1000 Points of Light: the Proliferation and Evolution of Interactive Online Options. I will simply acknowledge here that a rapidly growing and already very extensive set of these options is already out there, creating a rich pallet to choose from in developing your own combination that you would use to reach out to and connect with.

This posting is about bridging the gap between online social networking as an exercise in using one tool or a few but in a disconnected way, and in really integrating the parts of your online presence into a single, organically organized whole that works for you.

I have raised the issue several times in this blog of using the tools and resources, and connecting with people where your target audience goes. That is a big part of selecting the tools you would use and bring together into your own personalized online presence. But how do you bridge the learning curve and due diligence gaps in selecting these tools and developing a usage of them that you find effective?

Two basic issues come to mind for me here, that I see as key to answering that question, and I would turn to LinkedIn as a working focus point for this discussion with thoughts of my friend and colleague here.

1. Ability to visibly connect and mash-up the resources you use so the people you connect to and wish to connect with can find everything you present: I have a LinkedIn profile. I also have this wordpress.com blog. I prominently show a link to my blog on my profile but more importantly I use a web app on my LinkedIn profile that lists my most recent blog postings with their titles showing as links, and with the excerpt text I drafted for them showing too. This is more important than the simple plain-text URL because it has greater visual impact and the web is still very visually oriented. This web app is also more important as it provides richer content in showing what my blog offers and that adds value to any viewing of my profile and either visually or through a text reader. I also, of course have a link to my LinkedIn profile showing in the page template for my blog, and with a mouse-over web app that opens a mini-view of the profile page. Connecting the dots and cross-linking is very important here, and apps that support richer, more informative cross-linking help even more.
2. Ability to test different modes of online connecting and sharing to see if they would work for you and help you reach your goals: LinkedIn has a Q&A feature and I immediately saw that as offering value when it came out. More specifically, I saw this as a marketing tool whereby I could not just claim that I worked in a given area or on a given problem type – I could share examples of my expertise and the value I bring to the table. So I began answering questions posted, selecting them for inclusion in this marketing campaign with care. I drafted my answers to these questions with care too and reached a point where I had provided answers to 23 questions. And in the process I was selected 15 times for offering best answer/expert responses. I also found myself getting consulting opportunities because of these answers. But that is only the first half of this point. This is where blogs and blogging come in. I also used the experience of responding to these questions as an easy way to test out the feasibility of my blogging. I could get feedback on what others thought of my writing and of my selection of topics to write on. I did not have to commit to setting up and maintaining a blog to do this.

I faced and had to resolve all the standard questions of blogging per se, of course like:

• Will I have the time to post on a regular basis?
• Will I have the topics and material to post on, and in a way that would be of interest to others?

I decided I had enough of a reason to say yes to both for this to be worth trying. Yesterday as a single data point I had 98 visitors come to my blog and I always seem to have at least a dozen prospective postings in mind and on a list I maintain so experience has shown me to be right enough there. Even if I had not found my blog to work, I could simply have closed it down though so the downside would not necessarily be great. Still, I did find it very helpful to test this out first to see if it was something that had potential for working for me.

LinkedIn also offers a tool for adding quick update notes to a profile. If their Q&A can serve as a gateway into blogging, this can serve as a test-run gateway into Tweets and Twitter. Here, think of these web site resources both as offering value in and of themselves and as offering bridging and enabling functions – connecting your online presence together and letting you test out new types of resources before you jump into them completely as stand-alone if connected resources.

Think of this posting as focusing on developing an integrated online presence with resource testing and benchmarked strategy. And you know you have to expand the pool of resources you include in your mix when you start finding your current mix constraining, and when the bridging features like the LinkedIn Q&A no longer quite meet your needs in and of themselves. In that case try blogging, or perhaps video blogging depending on your preferences and objectives and where your target audience goes.

2 Responses

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