Monday, December 22, 2008

Navigating Social Networking Sites: To Join or Not to Join?

Posted by Katie Noonan

People today are more strapped for time than ever, which makes Dan Schawbel’s recent blog on Mashable-Twitter, Facebook, Digg: Can You Join Too Many Networks? especially topical and a great resource for those in the working world.

Schawbel urges readers to be selective when deciding on which social networking sites to join. With so many sites to choose from, it may be difficult to determine which is best for your specific professional needs. Below are recommendations based upon Furia Rubel’s work with our clients and their successes.

  • Facebook. Facebook is the pre-eminent social networking site for the 18-24 set, and increasingly for professionals and people in their 30s and 40s as well. With almost 200 million users, MySpace is technically the largest social networking site, but Facebook has a level of credibility and innovation which MySpace has so far been unable to match. Facebook has a social component to it which makes it a great resource for networking and re-connecting with old friends, classmates and colleagues who could potentially be new business prospects or referrals. It is better for showcasing your personality than your business credentials, but an appropriate Facebook profile with information about your business could open some doors.
  • LinkedIn. LinkedIn is often referred to as “Facebook for grown-ups.” With more emphasis on business networking and less on socializing, LinkedIn users are professionals hoping to grow their professional circle and their business. Unlike Facebook applications like Bumper Sticker, Super Wall and the recreational-like, the applications recently introduced to LinkedIn are more geared toward business, especially carrying out office tasks with greater ease. If you join one social network with a goal of generating new business, I would recommend LinkedIn.
  • Twitter. With its 140-character tweets, and the help of supplemental sites that allow you to track what other people are saying about your business, Twitter is an easy and efficient way to promote your business and connect with people. While building a Facebook page or Twitter profile can be time intensive, Twitter allows you to post short blips and let other people find you. A link on your company’s website to your Twitter page will grow your following tremendously within the span of a few days.

There are many other social networking sites out there, but Schawbel urges, and I agree, that individuals should avoid joining too many, or those that seem like they could fizzle. The best way to determine which to join in my opinion is to go with the tried and true, and those that have a million users or more. Realize that social networking sites do take time- both to start up and maintain, but they come with measurable PR benefits and business development potential. Set aside a few hours to build your social network profiles, and then a block of time each day to maintain them to avoid getting overwhelmed.

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