Social networking: just do it

facebook-linkedinA friend recently cooked me dinner in return for a few hours of web strategy. She’s already doing a great job of online networking but she’s under the impression I know loads of arcane secrets about online marketing and social networking, which is flattering but not entirely true (although the dinner was FANTASTIC!).

This morning, my dad said he wanted to try social networking. He asked me why I didn’t have any blog posts on how to use Facebook and Twitter.

I will tell you what I told both of them: there are no secrets, just do it. Dive in, try things out, and make connections. You’ll learn as you go.

When I first got on LinkedIn, hardly anyone I knew had signed up. Now, a few years later, I have over 300 connections, which gives me a searchable network of millions. I haven’t used it to grow my business in any deliberate way, but it’s a tremendous resource with all kinds of potential.

Twitter was an experiment – I didn’t “get it” so I tried it. In my case I use it as a mini-blog but I see friends using it as a way to keep in touch throughout the day, or they offer on-the-spot social commentary, or maybe they just keep up to see where the party is. I hate to admit it, but it’s got a certain appeal. And the fact that I can tweet from my phone…it’s kinda cool. But it’s hard to explain why. I just like it. And so whenever I think about it, I tweet.

On a personal level, Facebook seemed useless to me for well over a year, probably because of my age – late 30s. A year later, now that I’m about to turn 40, many of my friends are online. The newsfeed is starting to get interesting as I read all the posts and find out what my everyone’s doing. I like the apps, too – you can share books and movies, play games (albeit slowly, one turn at a time!), or simply reach out and poke someone.

So for all of you social networking butterflies out there, don’t be afraid. Sign up, log in, and link up. Friend someone today and see what happens.

Email in your sleep

EmailHave you ever tried a multi-message autoresponder? This useful service offers a slick way to send out a series of timed messages. It’s great for anyone who has to educate as part of their sales process.

Consider offering an email “class” where you send a series of daily or weekly emails, each containing useful information to help your prospects make an informed purchase decision. Avoid the sales pitch of course—you are offering expertise and experience, and that sells itself. Feature the class on your website, and link the signup box to the autoresponder service. Visitors sign up online and automatically receive emails based on whatever schedule you set up. You can even view the list to send personal follow-ups to everyone who signs up.

At the end of the course, you’ll have better educated prospects who view you as an expert. Send out a special offer after the course is complete to help convert them to new customers!

World Wide Web goes local

Yahoo Local

A current focus for major search engines is local search, in direct competition with the old standby, your phone directory. Google and Yahoo! both offer local search options that help you find businesses in the area.

Of course, what’s most important is making sure everyone can find your business. You may be listed already—they pull data from a wide variety of sources. If you don’t like the description, or you aren’t yet listed, sign up your business and edit details at http://www.google.com/local/add and http://listings.local.yahoo.com. You can even ask customers to post online reviews.

Birthday cards aren’t spam

Happy Birthday CakeWho knew–the virtual world was celebrating my birthday yesterday nearly as much as I was! I received a bunch of emails from various websites, all wishing me a very happy birthday.

In nearly every case, these were websites I’d neglected for months. But in several cases, the email prompted me to make a quick visit and renew that online relationship. I haven’t bought anything yet because of it, but these sites are now top of my mind once again.

A regular email newsletter or special offer wouldn’t have had this effect. I would have hit delete or sent the message to spam. But birthday cards aren’t spam, and their marketing message got through.