Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking with a professional face – 1: starting a new series

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on February 21, 2011

A lot of my current professional focus is on online social media and networking, and involves working with people and organizations that need new approaches for managing them. I have recently posted several times to this blog with my current clients in mind, and particularly as installments to Web 2.0 Marketing and Social Networking and Business. I have decided to add a new series on social networking with a professional face as a part of that ongoing initiative and with a goal of highlighting some of the details that are most often overlooked, but that can prove crucial.

After this initial series posting I plan on more or less systematically discussing a set of issues that will including, among other things the key points to consider when:

• Setting up a social networking profile or page, with the range of options available for controlling access and visibility for potential viewers.
• Social networking goals and strategies.
• Fleshing out your profile and both for style and content.
• Writing to other people’s pages, and their writing to yours where that type of feature is supported.
• Connecting your online social networking presence on social networking sites to other online social media (e.g. online groups, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, etc.)

I will at least touch on a wider range of issues while doing this, but the above offers a basic orientation to what I will attempt to cover here.

In the balance of this posting I want to focus on a very important set of issues that really need to be considered as a first step. And they all boil down to one question with its various considerations:

• Where should you actively social network, posting and maintaining a business oriented social networking profile and presence?

Well over 500 million people are on Facebook, making that the most widely used online social networking forum worldwide. But much of Facebook with its rich selection of features and layout is social without supporting professional in nature. Sites like LinkedIn have much smaller if still significant memberships and are much more business-oriented. But a LinkedIn presence can only help you to the extent that the people you would seek to reach, and who would seek you out are in the LinkedIn community and actively so. That basic principle applies to any social networking site. The people you need to connect with for business purposes need to be there too, and prepared to do business through these sites, if the sites you select are to help you with your business social networking. Then there are a seemingly endless range of specialty sites – sites maintained through school alumni associations or professional organizations, sites intended primarily for people living and working in specific geographic regions, and so on.

• Know the demographics you wish to connect with and put your efforts into developing an effective online presence through social networking web sites that will work for you.

There are trade-off decisions here. Facebook can be good for its numbers, but for business networking in general, LinkedIn may be a better choice if you only really focus on participating on one site. If nothing else, try out using an explicitly business-social networking site as a prototyping exercise to get some hands-on practice and experience with business social networking.

• Should you simply try social networking on lots of sites and venues to increase your chances of finding the right people? Effective social networking through a web site takes time and effort and increasing the number of sites you actively seek to keep up with can quickly take so much cumulative time and effort as to surpass any realistic law of diminishing returns criteria. Keep the number of social networking sites you participate on within reasonable bounds, and focus your attention and efforts where ongoing experience shows you gain back the greatest return on your invested efforts.

I would recommend staring with one, or at most two and if you use a site like Facebook and one like LinkedIn, use LinkedIn for more of your business networking and Facebook more socially.

As a final thought for this posting, I deal with some fairly preliminary issues here but the consequences of where you social networking for business can have impact on all of the other issues I will touch on throughout this new series. So to cut ahead for a second, I will be writing about connecting blog participation and social networking profile presence. If you do both and want them to work together synergistically, it would help if your online social networking site offers support of a web app that can be used to show and highlight your blog on your business networking profile – assuming both are business-oriented and supportive of your business and professional goals. So all of the issues involved in this series really fit together.

My next posting in this series will look into issues involved in setting up a business social networking profile. I will cite LinkedIn as a working example though I will offer more general information as well that would apply to other social networking sites.

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