Like it or not, social networking has become an integral part of our daily life. No matter if you try to reach new clients for your business, looking for a new job or reconnect with old friends; social networking is the weapon of choice.
The recent economic downturn has forced many of us to become more pro-active in many aspects of our business life. Regardless of the situation, it is a buyer's market. It's a buyer's market in real estate, in the job market or in the business world in general. You need to be pro-active to be noticed. This holds true especially in social networking.
But be aware, not all social networking sites are made equal. They have very specific features and functionalities that you need to know to gain the most from them. I personally use 5 distinctive social networking sites to promote my skills and services. The goal is to keep my profile in peoples mind repeatedly to be on somebody's short list when the need of my services arises.
Here's my list of the 5 social networking sites that I personally use and how to use them most effectively.
LinkedIn is the 800 pound gorilla of social networking sites. Many business professionals are a member of LinkedIn and use it on a daily base to stay in contact with their business contacts. The primary concept is to utilize existing connections to get introduced to new contacts. This concept works very well and allowed me to extend my network to people I previously didn't know and now maintain a solid business relationship.
The key to success in LinkedIn is to be an active member. Ask questions, answer questions, join groups, write recommendations for people you're connected with, announce your status, start discussions in groups you're a member of, write comments to discussion topics, etc.
I use the Outlook add-in from LinkedIn to keep my outlook contacts in sync with LinkedIn's information. People tent to keep their contact information in LinkedIn up-to-date and this way I always have the latest contact information in my Outlook contacts.
This is my LinkedIn profile.
Plaxo has a similar approach as LinkedIn, but is more geared to exchange current status information of each member. Somewhat like Twitter on steroids. Unlike LinkedIn, Plaxo doesn't support a concept of connection levels. You are either connected to somebody or not. I like Plaxo's integration tools a little bit better than the LinkedIn toolbar.
Especially the Plaxo pulse program is an interesting concept that informs you about any new activity from your network connections. I also like the feature of the Plaxo Outlook add-in that synchronizes the Plaxo photo and birthdays with your Outlook contacts. Even if you're not connected to an individual, if you receive an email from a new contact and you are adding this information to your contacts, Plaxo then synchronizes the photo and when you read the email from this contact it will display a picture in the upper right corner. Very cool technology.
This is my Plaxo profile.
Naymz is all about reputation. There are a couple of things you need to do to become a successful Naymz networker. Take your time and review each and every contact. It is important the every contact gets its assessment. That's how Naymz works. People will give you their assessment anonymously and this will count towards your RepScore. The higher your RepScore, the better your reputation.
Another feature of Naymz is that it monitors the web for any mentioning of your name and creates a history for you to review. This allows you to take action against anything that could harm your reputation before more damage is done. The biggest threat to your professional success is harmful information about your and/or your business floating around in the internet without your knowledge.
This feature alone is worth being a member of Naymz.
This is my Naymz profile.
Ecademy has in impressive SEO feature that will get you onto Google's map in no time. Create a Google alert with your name and then create a profile on Ecademy. You will be surprised on how fast Google indexes your name.
I used Ecademy for SEO related message placement and of course expanding my network. The best use of Ecademy is to connect as many members as possible, this will keep your profile on top of the list and indexed by Google over and over again.
I don't think that Ecademy will produce any professional connections that will yield in business activities, but it helps to keep my name in rotation. This is a mostly UK and European based network, but it has a good presence in the United States as well.
This is my Ecademy profile.
Ryze is the smallest of the social networks I use. Regardless its size, it offers a couple of features that are very unique to Ryze like the event calendar and posting classifieds to the network.
I have to admit that this is the latest network I joined and I am still gauging its benefits. So far I didn't explore its entire functionality. I joined Ryze due to an article I read and now I'm exploring its features.
This is my Ryze profile.
LinkedIn is and will be my main social networking site, but I will utilize the other sites to maximize my online presence. I really like the special features of Plaxo and the reputation approach of Naymz. Ecademy and Ryze are a little bit too spamy, but I will explore their strengths and use it to my advantage. Needless to say that all social networks are free to join and all of them offer a paid upgrade. I do not think that the paid upgrades are worth it, but this is everybody's own decision.
Bottom-line: No matter which social networking site you're using, you're being pro-active as long as you are using at least one of them. As I mentioned earlier, it is a buyer's market.