The art of social media

Like it or not, social networks have become an integral part of our daily lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to reach new customers for your business, look for a new job, or reconnect with old friends; Social networks are the weapon of choice.

The recent economic downturn has forced many of us to be more proactive in many aspects of our business lives. 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 have to be proactive to get noticed. This is especially true on social media.

But keep in mind that not all social networking sites are created equal. They have very specific features and functionality that you need to know to get the most out of them. I personally use 5 distinctive social networking sites to promote my skills and services. The goal is to keep my profile in people’s minds repeatedly in order to be on someone’s short list when the need for my services arises.

Here is my list of the 5 social networking sites I personally use and how to use them most effectively.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the 800-pound gorilla of social networking sites. Many business professionals are members of LinkedIn and use it daily to stay in touch with their business contacts. The main concept is to use existing connections to meet new contacts. This concept works very well and allowed me to extend my network to people I didn’t know before and now maintain a strong business relationship.

The key to success on 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 on discussion topics, and more.

I use the LinkedIn Outlook plugin to keep my Outlook contacts in sync with the LinkedIn information. People try to keep their contact information on LinkedIn up to date and this way I always have the latest contact information in my Outlook contacts.

Plaxo

Plaxo has a similar approach to LinkedIn, but is more geared towards exchanging information about each member’s current status. Sort of like Twitter on steroids. Unlike LinkedIn, Plaxo does not support a concept of connection levels. Are you connected with someone or not. I like the Plaxo integration tools a little better than the LinkedIn toolbar.

Especially the Plaxo pulse program is an interesting concept that informs you about any new activity of your network connections. I also like the feature of the Plaxo Outlook plugin that syncs Plaxo photo and birthdays with your Outlook contacts. Even if you are not connected with a person, if you receive an email from a new contact and you are adding this information to your contacts, Plaxo then syncs the photo and when you read the email from this contact, it will display an image in the upper right corner . Very cool technology.

naymz

Naymz is all about reputation. There are a couple of things he needs to do to become a successful Naymz networker. Take time with him and go through each and every contact. It is important that each contact get their evaluation. This is how Naymz works. People will give you their evaluation 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 mention of your name and creates a history for you to review. This allows him to take action against anything that might damage his reputation before more damage is done. The biggest threat to your professional success is harmful information about you and/or your business that floats around the Internet without your knowledge.

This feature alone is worth being a member of Naymz.

Academy

Ecademy has an awesome SEO feature that will get you on the Google map in no time. Create a Google Alert with your name, and then create a profile on Ecademy. You will be surprised how quickly Google indexes your name.

I used Ecademy for SEO related post placement and of course to expand my network. The best use of Ecademy is to connect as many members as possible, this will keep your profile at the top of the list and indexed by Google over and over again. I don’t think Ecademy produces professional connections that lead to business, but it helps keep my name in rotation. This is a network based mainly in the UK and Europe, but it also has a good presence in the US.

ryze

Ryze is the smallest of the social networks I use. Regardless of its size, it offers a couple of features that are very unique to Ryze, such as the events calendar and the posting of classified ads on the network.

I must admit that this is the last network I joined and I am still evaluating its benefits. Until now I did not explore all its functionality. I joined Ryze because of an article I read and am now exploring its features.

Summary

LinkedIn is and will be my main social networking site, but I will use 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 bit too spammy, but I’ll explore their strengths and use them to my advantage. It goes without saying that all social networks are free and all offer a paid upgrade. I don’t think paid upgrades are worth it, but this is up to you.

Bottom line: no matter which social networking site you’re using, you’re being proactive as long as you’re using at least one of them. As I mentioned earlier, it is a buyer’s market.

Take care

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