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Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter – Oh My

How Smart Networkers are Using Social Media to Make – and Keep – Great Contacts … and What You Need to Know to Keep Up

While it's true that past generations of business professionals were quite successful without ever being concerned about how many "friends" they connected with on their online business profile or what their next "tweet" should say about an upcoming business event, in today's world everything has changed. As some of the most successful marketers can tell you, if you use the platform of social media and social networking strategically, you can build an online presence that will not only strengthen your other marketing strategies, but will probably replace them. In addition, social media networking can help you monitor, build and protect your brand, and / or the reputation of your business, as you grow and build your influence and share your expertise in today's marketplace.

Through the power of the Internet, you are able to make one connection that not only gives you access to that person's network of friends, but that then can also allow you to touch an even larger network of friends-of-friends. Social media networking enables you to "meet" people right from your desk. And with Twitter, you can reach and follow some of the most high-profile business leaders in the country – opening up some huge potential doors right from your PC or cell phone.

Following are 10 tips on how to put the power of social media to work for you … and make the most out of this technology that no true networker should do without these days.

1. Grab Your Name – Protect Your Brand

One of the first steps you should take in building your social media presence is to secure or register your company name or personal brand. Most social networking sites, like Twitter, Facebook, or Ning allow you to register or personalize your account with your own name when you create a page in their networks.

2. Define your social media strategy

Before you jump into a social media posting blitz, check out the competition. How are they using social networking websites for their business? What are they posting about? How often are they posting?

Once you have evaluated the competition, create a strategy for your business or brand. What is your objective? Is it to cultivate new business? Give advice to current customers? Balance your postings with interesting information about your products and services. Offer advice and incentives to your followers – particularly the latest news and updates from your business or industry.

3. Steer away from the sales pitch.

The number one rule in social networking – just like in traditional networking – is to leave out the sales pitch. Try to stay away from direct advertising – this will not only cost you your audience, but you may be removed from the service since since most social media sites sell direct advertising as a way to create revenue.

4. Remember that the Internet archives EVERYTHING

Remember that as fast as you can grow your brand online, it can also be hurt just as easily. Do not use profanity, personal attacks, or offhanded remarks as these can be picked up by a myriad of people and search engines – at any time.

5. Incorporate Links to Expanded Information in your status updates

Whether it's a link to a news article you are referencing, or a written post on your own blog, your followers will appreciate a way to get more information from you.

6. Join the Conversation

Rather than thinking of your social presence as an announcement-only based system, do what the strategy implies: be sociable. Platforms like Twitter allow you to personally join in ongoing conversations by adding a keyword to your posting, preceded by the hash tag (#socialmedia). A list of ungoing conversations can be found on the Twitter website. For Facebook, every posting allows comments from that user's network.

7. LinkedIn

In the social media world, LinkedIn is where the professionals specifically congregate and "follow" their corporate contacts. While primarily an individual profile system (meaning you will be setting up a presence for yourself individually, rather than your company), LinkedIn allows you to describe your company and link your employees and contacts to your personal profile.

8. Actively market your social media presence

Add your Facebook user name, Twitter and LinkedIn profile pages to your website pages, blog postings, and email signature. Most social networking sites allow you to add coding to your websites that will automatically integrate and embed these applications directly into your social media web pages.

9. When you post, cue up your keywords

Incorporate keyword, or "buzz" words into your postings. This will allow your postings to rise to the top of the general search engines when someone is searching for information in your field or specialty.

10. It does not happen overnight – Give it time

Remember, just as in traditional networking, developing an online network of followers and creating an interest in your brand takes time. Do not abandon your social media efforts just because you do not see immediate results – and continue to keep up with new developments in this ever-changing area … and one that has now become an integral part of business networking through every industry .

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