5 Steps to Getting Started with this Social Networking Thing

A while ago I started an experiment in social networking. The purpose of the experiment was to understand how well social networks (SocNets) do at expanding the conversation that companies must generate about their products and services. In the end I know I did some things right and there were certainly in need of improvement (I believe that is the euphemism currently en vogue). Throughout it all I developed a bit of a system that has seemed to serve me well, with advice from some of the greats in the business (see references below). So here are my steps to getting involved in social networking. These tips work whether you are looking to be the social networking guru for your company or you are just looking to do it yourself.

This article is for the beginner. If you are already out there, well go read some of the articles at the bottom for more advanced advice.

  1. Create profiles. The more info you have filled out, the more people will realize you are serious about interacting in this network.
  2. Start your network with who you know – your contacts. Upload your contacts to LinkedIn, Plaxo or both and invite those who are currently members of that service to connect with you. Begin with the people you know well, and invite people in waves. People you don’t well should be saved for when you feel comfortable in these tools and you have built up a certain level of credibility (these days, unfortunately, credibility is measured by how many people you know, hopefully that will change soon but…).
  3. Grow your network. LinkedIn and Plaxo both allow you to increase your network, but usually these tools work best with highly targeted connections or introductions from friends. Twitter is a tool that allows you to easily post updates about what you are doing, interesting links, see what others are doing. The best thing about Twitter is that you can follow others without requiring them to follow you. In most cases they do, however, and you can reply to their tweets and start to build credibility in the community.
  4. Once you get to know people in Twitter, look for them in other networks, Facebook, MySpace, Xing, Second Life, etc. Find out where they are more active (which profile looks more filled out). If you have specific needs find out which service is best for fulfilling that need, e.g. if you need a job LinkedIn is great.
  5. Be active. No need to kill yourself trying to be everywhere at once. But make sure that you stay active in the communities you most value. This doesn’t mean just posting stuff about yourself all the time. Comment on other people’s work, link to other resources, chat with others. Asking questions is a great way to get the conversation going. Don’t be afraid of asking your connections to do something like write a comment on your blog or give to a charity.

Then rinse, wash, repeat. The key is just to keep the momentum rolling. If something isn’t working for you try another tack, another way of doing things or another network if that one isn’t right for you. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Everyone here is really friendly (for the most part;).
Here are some resources for further fun and games on SocNets.

Brian Solis
Brian created an eBook out of the posts he wrote for the experiment we ran.
He also has a number of great resources such as the Social Media Manifesto and Customer Service is the New, New Marketing

Cathryn Hrudicka
Cathryn discusses social media with Geoff Livingston

Doug Haslam
Podcast with Shel Holtz, and Marketing Profs

Aaron Brazell
Aaron’s original round-table kicked the whole idea off for the round-table after my experiment.

Chris Brogan
He has a great toolkit all ready for you.

Mashable
The news site that is all about Social Networking. They have a list of 350 sites.

Social Media Club
Once you get hooked you may want to join!

Tris Hussey
He did an interesting podcast about social media and non-profits.

There are probably a thousand others that I should mention but can’t think of at the moment. Feel free to shout out your list.

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4 Responses

  1. Jonathan – nicely put together. I’d switch it slightly, although I need to go back to an internal discussion today and now do an about face to follow this truly…

    I’ve been on LinkedIn essentially since it began – within that first 6-12 months. I find it to be the most comfortable place for me, and it does have the aura of being professional, vs. for example, Facebook.

    That said, I would recommend perhaps using Plaxo as the starting point, as you get side-benefits of auto-updating address books AND the ability to loop in your other “social activities” automatically, into your Plaxo Pulse (aka stream, feed, etc. in other systems).

    To me, it’s only as you start mingling/mashing the services that you’re going to start seeing early and visible value.

    So Plaxo first, LinkedIn second, and then Facebook, would be my 2 cents.

    BTW – pleasantly surprised to see my blog in your blogroll. Thanks for that!

    Cheers,
    Dan

  2. Dan,

    Yeah, I was torn on LinkedIn vs. Plaxo. There are a lot of great additional things that Plaxo does for you. Right now, with the whole job hunt thing, I find myself in LinkedIn a lot more. But if your goal is really to have meaningful conversations and discussions Plaxo does a much better job of that.

    I used to be head over heals about all the services that mashed-up with Plaxo so that you could synchronize your contacts all over the place. But, I believe that Yahoo may have stopped their API service so that Plaxo can’t access it to synchronize contacts (I may be wrong about that but…). If that is the case Yahoo needs to fix that. But it seems I haven’t been able to make as much use of Plaxo’s synchronization services as of late. But the de-duper whooohooo! Saved me a load of time.

    And yes, I love reading what you have to say so why not let others in on your wisdom;)

  3. Jonathan – even if you just use Plaxo to sync between say your home computer and work computer, it’s a life saver. Add in a mobile device that is a phone or provides e-mail, and that alone is worth the trouble of setting it up.

    But yes, from a job hunt standpoint, I’d say LinkedIn is the way to go, although ANYTHING that helps to provide you with a public forum to be found, particularly in areas/sites that you suspect hiring managers (or others) are hanging around at already, will serve you well.

    Public proof (i.e., reputation) of your work is a million times better than simply stating your traditional resume. Demonstrate brilliance by building an audience, providing thoughtful commentary, showing you can wield “social media” and so on.

    And Social Networks ala LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo (to a certain extent) would be foundations to build off of towards that end.

    Happy hunting, and anything I can do to help you in your quest, let me know.

    Cheers,
    Dan

    Special Bonus Parting Note: I *highly* recommend buying/borrowing (maybe even stealing) a copy of “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. He may very well be the most networked and hyper-networking person on the planet, and there is no way you would want to entirely duplicate his approach, but there a hundreds (or more) of great ideas in there to deal with either in-person or virtual networking, and in a non-creepy way.

  4. A danger about your subject:
    While social networking sites can increase your circle of friends, they also can increase your exposure to people with less-than-friendly intentions

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