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.


  1. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Great post. I find it useful to become an active member of niche social networks related to my product or service. This gives me a captive audience and helps me win trust in the community. I've found a great search engine that helps me find relevant niche social networks. It's called

  2. Thank you for providing all of this helpful information.