Thursday, May 29, 2008

Four Kinds of Social Networking

Social Networking, Part III

“I’m so confused! What is “social networking” and why should I be doing it?”

“I went to some of the sites you told me about, and I’m just completely lost! They all seem so different, and I have no idea how to use them!”

“I feel like I’m swimming, or better: drowning in a sea of information, and most of it seems to be irrelevant. How do I make sense of it all?”

These are some of the things I hear when I’m teaching about social networking. If my student has had any real exposure to the web lately, they’ve heard the term. They know it’s new, they know it’s important, even vital. But they have no idea what it means, or how they should be a part of it.

Let’s face it, there are a Whopping Lot of social networking sites out there. Even though they all are places for people to communicate with each other and interact, they all function a little bit differently and that makes it all very confusing and overwhelming. Let’s sort through the chaos and bring a little order and clarify by sorting them into a few simple categories. Sites and strategies within the same category can be approached in similar ways, and that makes them easier to understand.

  1. Blogs

When blogging started out, it really wasn’t a social networking phenomenon. It was more a “personal publishing” thing. You create a blog, you write in it, other people find it and read it. But there’s been a lot of changes to the whole realm of blogging that have made it truly interactive, truly social.

First of all, as you write, you develop a following of readers, who comment and link back to you. They subscribe to your RSS feed and follow what you have to say. Blogging host sites will often have directories and interlinking systems to help visitors find new blogs. Sites like and other blog aggregators and blog search sites serve as a focal points for finding new bloggers. Pinging services help you keep the listings of the blogs up to date. Blogging is truly interactive and social now.

  1. Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking sites allow you to share your favorite sites, articles, and information with the world. On a basic level, you create a profile which lists the sites you like best. Others can find your profile, and see the sites you recommend. As you try and promote your site, it’s possible to encourage others to post your site on their social bookmarking profile page.

One of the easiest of the bookmarking sites is Sqidoo. Here, they say that “Everyone is an expert on something”, and you create a page (called a “lens”) that focuses on your area of expertise. You include links to other sites that are of value to that audience. Other sites in this category include Digg (and microdiggs, which cover specific subjects),, and StumbleUpon

  1. Communities

Communities are simply places where people gather. The earliest versions of these were the forums. These sites are also commonly called “message boards”, and the practice and the technology was in place for these even before the world wide web was active. Email groups, easily found at and other website-based forums and boards provide a place for people with similar interests to gather, share information, spread rumors and gossip, and generally have a great time interacting.

From the forums evolved more elaborate communities like MySpace and Facebook. These are huge general interest communities. There are also more specific communities, like Linkedin (which is more of a workplace networking site) and (for finding old classmates and military buddies). Recently, a site called Ning has allowed individual users to create their own focused social networking sites.

Also, blending online gaming and virtual reality and social networking is a site called Second Life. It creates an entire virtual world where you can create a persona and interact with others.

  1. Hybrids and “Others”

Lastly, there are a few social networking systems that seem to defy categorization. The biggest of these is Twitter. This is a twisted blend of many different systems. You get friends (called “followers”) like MySpace, you post thoughts (called “tweets” or “microblogs”) like blogging, and it happens immediately, like instant messaging or chatrooms.

With these categories in mind, it’ll be much easier to discuss the individual strategies and approaches of each site or system. You’ll know what approach each one takes to the age-old task of finding friends and making connections. Because now, more than ever, people prefer to do business with their friends.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Social Networking Part II: How to Be V. A. S. T.

With thanks to Elizabeth Able, “Dazzlin” Donna Fontenot, and John Newman

Before we dive too deep into the specifics of how to use any of the individual social networking sites, I wanted to talk a bit more about how to approach social networking. There are some principles involved that underlie the entire practice of social networking. Some rules, as it were. Live by those rules, and you’ll be successful. If you choose not to, or if you approach social networking as if it were pure advertising, you’ll go down in flames and walk away cursing, “Web 2.0 is a bust! I don’t know what those people are thinkin’!”

John, my colleague here at clickincome, has a name for it. He calls it, “Respecting the Medium”. In other words, you see the opportunities that it presents, and you go after those opportunities, even aggressively. But you go after them in ways that show you understand why the medium exists (that is, sharing usefull information, and networking with good people), and participate accordingly.

He pointed out to me an article, written by Elizabeth Able, and published in Donna Fontenot’s blog that sums it all up in a short acronym. The Link is in the title. The original article is primarily directed to using stumbleupon, but I think I can add a few insights as I apply the same principles to other social networking sites.

She says that to effectively use social networking, you have to be VAST. This stands for being Visible, Available, Social, and Trustworthy. Let’s take a look at each one.

  1. Visible

If you wanna make the scene, you gotta show up to the party. And not just to one party, but lots of them. On the ‘net, it’s all about visibility. There have to be lots of points where people can see you and interact with you. So, even if you go in gradually, ultimately, you want to have accounts setup in lots of different social networking sites.

Elizabeth talks also about creating a brandable identity in your avatar, or the picture that you use to represent you at each account. In most cases whenever you post, comment, or communicate, your avatar is there next to your words. If it’s always the same, then people remember you more.

  1. Available

You want to make it easy for people to find you and interact with you. Pepper your profile pages with links to your main site, as well as your other social networking profiles.

  1. Social

This is not a time to be shy, or hide in the corner. This is a party! Get off the wall and start participating and interacting. Sure, it can take some time at each site getting to know just how to use each site’s uniqueness to level three. Don’t sweat that. Just jump in and start interacting.

Remember to find your audience. On MySpace, for example, I go to the forums and groups that I know my kinda people are already hanging out in. I post some comments. My avatar is a visual representation of what I’m about, and it draws people interested in my kinda music to my profile, and ultimately, my site.

And don’t just talk about yourself. When you find something cool that your audience would like, tell them about it. Link to it, share the love. This is a big part of respecting the medium. It’s all about networking and sharing. If all you talk about is yourself, people stop listening to you.

When people do communicate with you, respond. This seems to be obvious. But I learned it the hard way. I thought that I posted my ideas to my blog, and then the world could comment on them. But when I started joining in the ensuing conversation, I got a lot more comments. People wanted to join an ongoing conversation, rather than heckle a speech.

  1. Trustworthy

Finally, people need to feel comfortable talking to you. If all you’re doing is promoting yourself, they leave. When you “respect the medium”, it’s not just about marketing, it’s about sharing good content, good information, and being a good person to network with. There’s a guy I’ve been following on Twitter, and all of his postings are, “Just wrote another blog entry (URL, URL)”. I doubt I’ll be following him much longer because there really isn’t much there to attract my attention. On the other hand, there are people who post things like, “I just found this cool article…” or, “Is this country dying? Here’s what I think”. I’m much more likely to read that.

So, if you go to the party, interact with the other guests, let them interact back with you, give them good stuff, and don’t promote yourself too much or in the wrong ways, you’ll have people flocking to you. And that, ultimately, means customers.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Social Networking on So Many Levels

An Introduction to Social Networking

Some things in life are relatively stable. I own a house. It changes, but not really a whole lot. This last weekend, I did a lot of work on my house (my yard, actually), and it looks a little better from the street, now. Still, it looks like my house. It still has the same shape and windows, and the same cars parked out front.

Not like two years ago, when it was being built. Then, we’d drive by the lot a couple of times a week, and there would be drastic changes from day to day. No, once we moved in, it’s pretty much been the same.

This is the way people used to look at business. You set it up, you got it running, and once it was running, you kept going in the same way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That doesn’t really work on the internet any more. Business changes and evolves very rapidly. New approaches come, old, flawed models die off. It is true that it’s not a day to day change. It’s not that fast, yet. But you do have to be on top of the changes and be able to adapt to them, and even ride them.

The area that I’ve seen the biggest change lately is in the area called “social networking”. This evolved in recent years from older technologies. In the old days, there were “email groups” and “web forums” and “usenet newsgroups”. There was “IRC” and later, “instant messaging”. There were “personal pages” websites, where people would make sites about their families or things they liked.

These older technologies morphed and evolved into what we now have labeled “web 2.0” and “social networking”. At first glance, the concept can be quite overwhelming. You have to learn about and use so many completely different sites and resources in connection with each other. But as you dig in and learn, each site and each strategy can fall into place.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I’ve discovered that there are three basic levels of activity in social networking. Understanding this has made it much easier to grasp the nature of the game, and play it better for me. Here are the levels:

1. Basic Linking

All social networking sites have one thing in common. Everyone that uses them has a profile page of their own. This is a page that, while created by the site, can be customized by the user. On the basest, simplest level of social networking, you can go to each of the sites, sign up for an account, and create a profile page. Add a link from your profile page to your website, and move on to the next one. If this is all the social networking you ever do, you have at least spent a couple of hours creating 5-10 inbound links for your website. Even at this low level of activity, you have created some benefit to your business.

2. Learning the Sites

Each social networking site is slightly (or even very) different from the others. They have their unique purposes, and their own unique ways of helping people to interact with each other. At this level of activity, you’re participating in the site enough to learn the unique approach of that particular site. You’re becoming familiar with the audience and the demographic of that site, and are beginning to use it to draw in your audience.

3. Running With It

At this level, you’ve been participating and studying long enough to see the full marketing potential of a site’s unique approach. You’ve started to discover some of the deeper strategies unique to the system and its audience. Often this is done by reading and interacting with other people who are using the medium. This is where you’re really using to win the traffic and marketing game.

Now, don’t expect to use all the sites at level 3 right away. You may discover that you’re using some more than others. For example, there are some sites that, in my own social networking, that I’m barely using at all. is one of them. I use that one at level one. Others, like, and, I use with almost frightening frequency. In these, I’m beginning to approach level three.

The next few articles will take some overview of the sites and the methods in each one at each level. Join me for the ride!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Can You Digg It?

One of the oldest of the social networking sites is Digg. At first, it seemed to me to be very confusing. It’s a lot like and Squidoo in that it’s all about one user recommending something cool to another. It’s a little bit different in how it works, though. Where and especially Squidoo are more about socially bookmarking cool websites, Digg is all about articles, news, and blog postings.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First you write an article, or a posting on your blog

That might seem pretty self-explanatory. On the surface, it’s true. But in order to really make an article work on Digg, it has to be good. It has to be informative and valuable. It has to be focused, and clear. Being a bit controversial can sometimes help, too. It also has to be posted somewhere live on the ‘net. That could be your website, your blog, or some similar kind of website.

  1. Submit it to Digg

Originally, Digg was focused on tech topics, but has branched into a full category tree of all types of topics, so almost anything can get submitted. You can submit an article you’ve written, yourself, or one of your readers could do it, if they liked it enough. First, the system checks to make sure that the same content hasn’t already been submitted. Then it processes your submission.

  1. Encourage other people to Digg it

If other people find it, read it, and like it, they can log into their Digg accounts and “Digg” what you’ve written. Each time someone Diggs an article, it climbs in the rankings at the Digg website. The more Diggs, the higher your article ranks. And, of course, the higher it ranks, the more people will click on it. And the more people click on it and read it, the more Diggs it can get. It’s quite possible to get traffic measured in the hundreds of thousands or more from a front page listing.

One of the easiest things that you can do to encourage people to Digg your article is to install a “Digg This” button next to it. This is pretty simple to do. All you have to do is login to your account in Digg and go to their tools section. There you can copy and paste the code right into your blog or your website. When someone reads your article, there will be the button where they can click right in and Digg your writings.

  1. It generates traffic and cred

Digg is a great way to generate traffic to your site. The two keys to keep in mind are, first, to have genuinely good content there for people to Digg, second, to make sure that the content you have is submitted, and, third, to install the Digg This button next to your article.

Having your content get Dugg also goes a long way to establishing your name and brand as valuable.

Another idea? Once you’re signed in with Digg, go out and Digg other people’s content! One thing I’ve learned is that the law of karma is alive and well in social networking. Remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

Digg is another powerful tool in the hands of a good social network marketer!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.