A bit overdue, but I’ve been wanting to write a post about social networking for a while now. Casual Friday is as good a day as any to kick back with a little bit of socializing – so I hope you’ll join me!
More Than Just An Online Water Cooler
Let’s face it… participating in social media can be fun. But, if utilized correctly, it can also be a fantastic networking tool that can help grow your blog and bring in new business. Of course, if you aren’t careful to use it productively, it can be a ginormous time-suck, as well – so you also so you also need to learn when to disconnect.
Wading Through Open Waters
With all of the various sites out there – for professional networking like LinkedIn, micro-blogging like Twitter and Plurk and social bookmarking like StumbleUpon, lifestreaming like FriendFeed and SocialThing and even good old fashioned messageboards and forums – it can be quite overwhelming to figure out exactly what is what.
And if the current number of social services in existence isn’t overwhelming enough, there are constantly new ones popping up – seemingly on a daily basis! The decision as to which sites you should utilize can be a difficult one to make – one I’m still working on myself, though I do have my favorites.
There are of course pros and cons to using one service over another. You can easily search online to find countless articles listing both the benefits and drawbacks of each.
However, I find the best way to figure it out, is to just setup a profile and test it out for yourself. As with any friendship, you’ll see which of the social services you click with more than others. I just say stick with those and go with the flow!
All About Forming Relationships
Pretty obvious, but the point to social media is… well, to be SOCIAL!
The primary goal behind networking online is to help build relationships. One example of the type of crowd you’ll find utilizing these services are bloggers – the same bloggers whose posts you read as soon as they pop up in your RSS feed reader. In many cases the ones that you look up to and admire.
Yes, you might comment on their blogs and get a reply, but you can only take that so far. Through social sites – in my case, especially with Twitter – I’ve been able to have direct conversations with many of writers whose blogs I enjoy. 140 character conversations that have bled over into emails and such.
Yeah, But Can Social Networking Help My Business?
Ok, it’s fun – but is there any true benefit to networking online? To this I have to give a resounding YES!
It might take a while – and what you find might be very indirect. But in my experience – especially within the last month – I have definitely started seeing a business benefit to my efforts.
I’ve “friended” (yes, that’s a word now, LOL) so many great people – from other designers, developers, small business owners, bloggers – from computer experts to online newbies – you name it!
Connecting With Your Peers
I’ve been able to connect with so many great web designers, web developers and programmers, as well as a large number of fellow small business owners, bloggers and more.
I’ve had lots of fun working late nights on client web sites, during the peak hours where the other tech type are working as well. There’s a sense of oneness when we’re all at work, making the occasional tweet about whatever project we’re currently consumed with.
As a front-end web developer, there are several technical issues that you’ll run into in the course of developing a web site. I can always count on twitter being on my side in one of these snags… I’ve made many a tweet with a “cry for help” about some issue (usually relating to making a site display properly on IE6 – my fellow techies out there know exactly what I’m talking about 😉 ).
Anyway, I can always count on tweeting about a particular issue, and getting one or several helpful responses within a matter of minutes. In the same regards, when I hear a “cry for help” myself, I offer a helpful hand if I can, as well.
Often times help comes in the form of a link to a great web site or blog with helpful information on creating Valid HTML / CSS… some great WordPress tweak or plugin, etc.
Anyway, not to bore the non-technical readers out there, but this is my own experience with Twitter – certainly NOT a time-waster in this regard!
Of course, I can’t leave out LinkedIn, which is primarily known as being a business/professional networking site. I initially used LinkedIn to connect with friends from high school and college, but have since been adding my online friends, too.
More importantly, I’ve been able to connect with several of my clients through LinkedIn as well. One of LinkedIn’s features is that you are able to leave recommendations for people (and vice versa). This is especially helpful because it gives real credibility!
Through professional sites like LinkedIn, you are able to post your resume and professional qualifications. If you have a public recommendation or two, it just helps show your expertise in your given field. In my case I’ve received quite a few glowing recommendations from clients through my LinkedIn profile.
If you are in business for yourself, I highly recommend getting a LinkedIn profile of your own!
Real Life Examples (And Some Link Love)
Just a few examples below of people I follow and who follow me on Twitter (among other sites)… and I hope they don’t mind me linking to them – I’m forever grateful, though, so figured some Link Love wouldn’t hurt!
- Darren Rowse of ProBlogger
Lets face it – if you are reading this, and have a blog, you know who ProBlogger is! Making a six figure salary on blogging alone, Darren is THE expert when it comes to being a professional blogger. You’d think someone like this is completely out of reach – this is the type of person you look up to in the blog world! But you know what – he’s a very down to earth guy! Very friendly on Twitter and Plurk, always asking thoughtful questions and such. Darren made a few Twitter experiments a few months ago in a “Re-Tweeted” series. He posed a few questions on Twitter, then linked to the responses on his blog. My responses ended up on two of these posts, and I received tons of blog (and Twitter) traffic because of it!
- Jon Phillips of Spyre Studios and Freelance Folder
Through StumbleUpon and my old blog is where I first “met” Jon. I noticed he gave a “thumbs up” to several of my blog posts. I was quite thrilled at that, and this was actually my first introduction to StumbleUpon, as well. Since moving to this blog, I’ve connected with Jon on more of the bookmarking sites such as Digg and Design Float, as well as Twitter where I’m most active on. He submitted my 6 Phases of Web Design & Development post to several of the bookmarking sites and all I can say is WOW! This is by far my most popular post, and I continue to receive hits to it on a constant basis. Through Jon’s connections and linking, this post ended up in the “Best of March 2008” link roundups on both Smashing Magazine and Vandelay Design. A huge accomplishment in my book, considering what a new blogger I am (coming up on 1 year soon…). I was even featured on the Spyre Studios blog as having a “Kick-Ass Blog Design” Better yet, though, especially as far as real business is concerned, I was just referred a potential new client because of the relationship that we’ve formed – this prospect is now my newest client (a big one, at that…). So that’s “proof in the pudding” as they say!
- Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz
I adore Naomi’s writing style – she knows her stuff and is not afraid to speak her mind! When Naomi started offering her Itty Bitty Packages, I knew I had to get in on the action. I immediately hired Naomi for her home business marketing / consulting – this of course involved several phone calls, and emails, etc. We’ve since linked up on several social web sites as well. It’s through continual networking with Naomi that I’ve hired her several times… she’s also hired me to design several banner ads, as well. Through the relationship that we’ve formed, Naomi also wrote a post on her blog featuring me as one of her success stories. I have received quite a bit of traffic from this post, and have received several inquiries as a result, as well. No definite work yet, but several prospects as a result.
- Wendy Piersall of SparkPlugging
I had been reading Wendy’s original blog network, eMoms at Home for quite some time – I’d always be reading and would occasionally comment. Then she posted links to some of her social networking profiles, and I took the bait, LOL. We’re connected on Twitter and LinkedIn, for example. We’ve had several little but very helpful chats over Twitter, which have led to some full emails (longer than 140 characters!). Aside from the invaluable advice Wendy gave me, she recently asked if she could interview me for SparkPlugging! It’s an honor to have been interviewed, and I’ve received a bit of traffic from the post. Without our prior connection through social media (specifically Twitter), I’m sure this interview never would have happened! Yes, we’ve taken our communications beyond Twitter over to email, but it’s the little 140 character conversations that helped pave the way for something more.
Let’s Connect – Friend Me!
Without further ado, below is my massively long list of social media profiles. There are a LOT here – most of which I am using, although there are a few a few I’ve opened up just to reserve my name… not quite sure yet what I’ll use it for, but all in due time… 😉
Please feel free to friend me! I’d love to connect with you!
Most Active On…
- LinkedIn – business networking
- Instagram – photo sharing
- Facebook – social networking community
- Twitter – micro-blogging and chit-chat
Easy Status Updates – Ping.fm
I can’t link to a billion social services and not recommend Ping.fm – this site is still in beta, but you can request an account by using the beta code: dreamofping
With all of the social sites – in particular the micro-blogging ones – the thought of going to each one and individually posting a status update is almost too much to bear…
Enter Ping.fm! You’re able to link many of your existing social media accounts to Ping.fm – just log in, post an update and all of your social accounts will be updated in one shot. A major time saver! I find it incredibly helpful, and I use it all the time now.
Their list of supported media sites is constantly growing, but at the moment you can make updates to 19 social services (including Blogger, Facebook, LinkedIn, My Space, Plurk, Pownce, Tumblr, Twitter and more) via 7 tools (such as AOL, GTalk, Yahoo Instant Messenger, Mobile Applications, Email, and more).
Anyway, I clearly can’t say enough good things about Ping.fm, so you might want to give it a shot!
Life Streaming, Too!
The only downside to Ping.fm, is that this isn’t used for the conversational aspects of social networking. You can post your updates – but this isn’t meant for you to view your friends updates, receive responses or respond directly to your friends, etc.
For something like that – Life Streaming, as they call it – you might want to check out SocialThing (still in beta – I have 1 beta invitation left if anyone wants it…), or FriendFeed might be a better option for you.
I kind of feel that there’s still nothing like getting right into each individual site to converse directly with your friends, though. Twitter is good for replies and direct messages, for example – but I do find Plurk’s conversation mode to be quite interesting! Much better organized in that individual conversations are grouped together, rather than Twitter’s general timeline.
Anyway, this post has gone on long enough, LOL, so…
Now I Want To Hear From YOU!
Which of the social media sites do you like the best? Why do you use that one over another? Which micro-blogging platform to you like the best? Which social bookmarking site brings you the most traffic (StumbleUpon by far brings me the most traffic, btw).
Please feel free to contact me with a link to your social site(s) of choice, or if you don’t mind it being “out there” go ahead and post the link(s) in your comment below. I’d love to get to know my readers better, and what better way than through social networking!