Eric Pratum’s Musings

I find things for people

(Online) Social Networking Tools - The Basics

I’m speaking at Western Washington University as part of a panel discussion with a former boss from Parker Remick and with a former MBA classmate, who also happens to work there now, so I thought that I would throw together a post on basic social networking for those not already deeply involved. This post is focused primarily at current business students, who may not already be using social networking to their advantage.

I have tried to group this in order of ease of use and amount of time needed. However, I have surely overlooked something and would appreciate comments at the bottom to let me and my readers know what has been left out.

Here at the outset, I will say that you should click here to follow me on Twitter and here to add me on LinkedIn .

The basics: Everyone should have LinkedIn and Plaxo accounts. LinkedIn is essentially an online resume coupled with social networking. On LinkedIn , as with many social networking sites, you have the option of connecting with as many people as possible and therefore having many, many weak connections, but a potential wide reach, or a smaller number of strong connections. My personal preference is on the weak connections side. For this reason, I am a member of groups like MyLink 500 , TopLinked , and The LIONs MetaNetwork . Often groups like this offer email lists of people that you can easily add to your network on various social networking sites.

Plaxo is the other simple resource that I would suggest everyone take advantage of. The main reason for this is that Plaxo allows your contacts to update their contact information in your online address book. You can also sync Plaxo with Yahoo! , Gmail , LinkedIn , MobileMe , etc in order to get their updated information most easily to the places you are likely to use it. I would highly suggest that you use that aspect of Plaxo .

A little more advanced: There are very specific services out there that cater to things like photography ( Photobucket , Picasa , Flickr ), music ( , Garageband ), video ( Youtube , Vimeo ), and others. There are far too many to keep track of. As the blog pic suggests, you are most likely to find happiness or success if you pick the ones that are relevant to you. For example, I’m a musician, so I keep a , my new band , and . is not updated that often, but it does have new music when I post it, and it has links to other places I can be found. Since I am a musician and have pages with my music, I keep myself open to networking with other musicians online. How would they find me if I didn’t at least have the pages and check them now and then? The same can be said for those of you interested in photography or any other such things. If you don’t see your interest on a normal site, you might check out Ning , where you can basically create your own social network.

Facebook: Some people prefer to have their Facebook profiles completely open so that it is another way to network with as many people as possible. My personal preference is to keep it fairly closed up. It’s one of the few places that I can keep things somewhat private among my friends. How you use various networks is up to you, but keep in mind that there will occasionally be messages, pics, etc that you will not want shared with your entire network.

Blogging: I keep a blog here. It’s not professional, but it does have my resume and background, and it probably gives people a pretty good idea of my likes and dislikes. It also serves as an easy place to find info on me, should someone want to, say, interview me. Blogging is not for everyone. It takes a lot of time, but it is pretty much free. I think I pay about $15/year for my domain name, and how much easier could it be for someone to find me than to just type in my name and put .com behind it?

There are some major problems that people run into with blogging. Many of them can be found in Hubspot’s recent posts: here , here , and here . I’ll summarize them like this. . . If you start a blog, write about things that are important to you, have an opinion, add relevant useful commentary to others’ related blogs, and don’t give up if you’re not getting a lot of page views in the first month. I’ve had my blog up for close to a year now, and I’m lucky to get more than 500 visits/day, and most of those are for rant-type posts about , , and , so not professional at all.

Most of my traffic is driven by tag/keyword searches and submissions to Digg and Reddit . If you take a look at my work blog , you’ll notice that I included Digg , Reddit , and Yahoo! Buzz buttons in each post, as well and Feedburner links at the bottom of each post. All of these are minutia for those not currently blogging, but I would be more than happy to explain them and their use should you wish.

Let me say this before moving on. . . Blogging is probably the number 1 easiest way to get yourself found or noticed online. However, what is not easy is generating quality content that makes you seem like a valuable asset to someone. The end result of this is that there is a lot of junk out there created by people, who just want attention. I’ll admit, I’ve created plenty of it myself on my own blog. There is relatively little useful information in the majority of blog posts, but the dedicated can really carve out a niche for themselves and create very dynamic and successful career and life paths as a result. For that though, you need to start using blogging software from Blogger , WordPress , Typepad , etc and then couple that with info from Hubspot , SEODigger , Hubspot’s Website Grader , etc.

Messaging and Microblogging: If you are on the internet often, you should be using Twitter . Twitter is sort of like Facebook status updates, but it’s a service that is dedicated specifically to it and is used very frequently for business purposes. You can even follow political candidates, news reporters, and other well known people on there. If you like, you can even have Twitter update your status on Plaxo , LinkedIn , and Facebook .

Windows Live Messenger , AIM , etc are all popular, but are not often used for social networking. . . unless you are in an office or business that specifically encourages the use of one of those. I am on both of those and would be more than happy to chat should someone like.

Wrap Up: The correct use of some of these tools can have the effect of making you more visible and accessible, helping you to find a job, network, etc, and they might even earn you a name or some respect if you work hard, or even if you happen to unintentionally do something novel.

Since I was quite wordy, I will make sure to post soon in a more specific fashion about just one or two of these resources.

If I overlooked anything, please comment to let everyone know since this should be an educational post, and I am sure that I did not touch on everything that could be useful.

October 1, 2008 Posted by ericpratum | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments