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.

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