Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Twitter and LinkedIn: Social networking for the business-minded

I usually don’t jump on anybody’s bandwagon, but in the case of using the vast internet social networking sites to promote your business, I’m going to go right ahead and beat the drum.

Like all small business owners, marketing seems to be my Achilles’ heel. Sure, I go after prospects with some gusto, and follow up on all word-of-mouth referrals, but past that, I haven’t the time (or a clue) to market myself.

Another small business owner suggested putting a profile on a few of the social networking site out there, a tip to which I immediately turned up my nose. I don’t My Space or Facebook. All of my friends do, and there’s just too much drama.

But what he meant were the sites geared more towards professionals, like Twitter and LinkedIn. I scoffed, but tried it anyway.

I started with Twitter, the more user-friendly of the two. A few clicks, an uploaded logo and I was tweeting away. On Twitter I can follow businesses that I’m interested in, and they can also follow me, which is great. But I wasn’t truly impressed until I landed my first Twitter client in under five days. Not bad for ten minutes of site building and a couple of updates.

Yeah, O.K. so celebs like Paris Hilton and Ashton Kutcher tweet, too. Still, it’s more of a business atmosphere than a shout-out thing.

LinkedIn, to quote that same friend, “is like Twitter on caffeine.” I had more to do to post a profile, like input all of my pedigree information and pertinent details about my business. Also I uploaded a picture. And like Twitter, there’s a tagline to update your activities as many times as you want.

I’m still working out the bumps, such as trying to figure out all of the available apps and how to import all of my contacts from my various email lists. I did link my profile to my company’s website and blog address. LinkedIn allows up to three links.

Tipsters tell me that creating a compelling profile (more than just your resume) is the key here to tap the site’s marketing potential. Your contacts can “recommend” you – i.e. write a glowing reference about your professional capabilities that get posted on your profile and theirs, and is open for all to view.

Also, you can join groups related to your field and network with their contacts. Quite a nifty little onion once you start peeling the layers.

So I’m new to the whole online business marketing thing. But navigating new waters means new opportunities, and potential for growth. And it’s all free. For details on building your own site, go to www.twitter.com or www.linkedin.com.