Questions you should be asking yourself about social networking.
Linkedin, Twitter, FastPitch, BizNik, Ecademy, Plaxo, HiveLive, Facebook, MySpace, and any of the 500 different sites online are all available to you if you choose to network online. However, how many and which ones should you belong to?
I am often asked if I am able to track back any income from the social networking sites that I am on. I am certain that I have indeed generated exposure and branding and I have been able to generate referrals for others in my network because of my social memberships. I can track income because I have booked 2 speaking engagements via the sites and a couple of new coaching clients. That being said, does the income match the time spent?
I do know that I easily spend at least ten minutes per day six days per week on the site for a total of one hour weekly. At my current billing rate that is $125 per week multiplied by 52 weeks for a total of $6500. On average most people belong to 5 social networking sites, doing the same math above for all 5 sites I would spend a total of $32,500 per year on my social networking site.
Therefore, the question is how much is too much. It really depends on what results you are trying to achieve in your social networking activities. I recently had a man who paints homes ask me if he should be on all of these sites promoting his business. If he were going to join one or two sites, which ones should he choose? Here are the five tips that I gave to him.
1. Find a local networking site, for instance, I am on Smaller Indiana. This would allow him to promote his business to people who might be willing to hire him. Smaller Indiana is predominately people in Indiana who are in a variety of businesses. Not for Profits, Professional Services, Business Owners, and Employees of companies are all members of this site. The key is, they are local, so I can sit down and have a cup of coffee with anyone of them at any time and build a stronger relationship.
2. Find an online networking group that has people with common interest. Ning has a variety of these kinds of networks. On Linkedin I belong to a Group that is made up of other BNI Directors. We are able to share information, help one another and arrange to meet with each other at conferences. I may or may not generate new business from this site, but I am able to build stronger relationships with those who are members because we have a common interest.
3. Know why you want to join the group. Is it for information, connections, to sell your product or services, to develop your expertise or just to socialize? I am a member of Ecademy. This is the only group where I actually spend money to be a member. Ecademy has a very international flavor and I want to make connections with people who can help me land more speaking engagements in the UK. Last year when I spoke in Bristol, England, I had the opportunity to meet several of the people I had been networking with online.
4. How much time do you want to spend online? Online networking takes time just like face to face networking. If your intention is to be known as an expert, you will have to spend time online blogging, spend time in discussions and commenting on other blogs. Do the math, even if you are not paying to be on the site, you are paying in valuable time.
5. Free or Fee? Most sites like Linkedin have a Free and a Premium membership. With the exception of Ecademy I am on the free memberships for all other sites. Try the 30-day free trial that most sites offer, if you like it and want to get more involved, then you can purchase up. Ecademy has two different levels that you can purchase; power networker and black star each are vastly different both in price and in access to the network. I recommend the lowest priced level to start and once you know for sure that you are going to be consistent and use the site, then consider moving up. Otherwise, it is like joining a gym; you make the payments every month and never go.
Just like face-to-face networking, you can waste a lot of valuable time and money if you do not have a plan and a system to utilize your network. For me this is Visibility Networking, and some Credibility Networking. I have been able to connect others in very powerful ways and that goes a long way to building trust with those I have made connections for.
If you are going to jump into this arena, you must have realistic expectations.