Fishermen toss them into the sea. Tennis players navigate them with volleys and drop shots. But in the 21st century, "net" has taken on new meaning, and for many, working the net means using social networking Web sites to market themselves and conduct business. But consider how common the following scenario is: One day you receive an invitation from a colleague to sign up on LinkedIn or Facebook. You say, why not? It's pretty easy to establish a user name and password, and a couple of clicks later you've created your basic profile. You nose around a while, join a couple of discussion groups perhaps and read what other people have written. And then ...?
If you're like many, you forget about your brief dabble in social networking and go back to work. Maybe the whole concept seems like a waste of time. Or you're not that computer savvy, and all the steps and buttons intimidate you. Either way, you fail to take advantage of powerful networking tools that, with a little patience and time, could help you make new contacts and generate referrals - not to mention these sites are free.
A number of contributing writers have written on the subject of social networking for this issue of The Green Sheet. This article is meant to help you jump-start your social networking adventure with step-by-step procedures for making some of the most popular sites work for you.
LinkedIn is designed to help business professionals maintain and generate contacts within various business communities. The site has over 35 million users in 170 industries. Following are instructions for maximizing your profile and building your network. The sidebar accompanying this article, "Eleven ways to love LinkedIn" offers further ideas for getting the most from LinkedIn.
Beef up your profile: After you create your basic profile, enhance it. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for others to find you. Additionally, a diversified profile expands potential contacts to businesses and industries that may not be central to - but nevertheless touch - the payments industry. Here's what to do:
The navigation bar on your page is on the left. Click on "Profile." Click on each section with a plus sign to add the corresponding information. It is much like filling out a job application. Sections include:
A progress indicator on the right tells you what percentage of your profile is complete. You don't have to complete the profile all at once; you can complete your profile in stages. Once you've filled out this section and received three recommendations from others (you have to contact individuals to ask for recommendations), your profile is considered 100 percent complete, which raises your status on LinkedIn's search engine. For example, when other users type in Joe Smith, the Joe Smiths that have completed profiles appear at the top of the list.
Grow your network: LinkedIn allows you to import your e-mail contacts.
Once they are imported, you'll see an "In" icon next to contacts who are already on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn will send your contacts e-mail messages that include your invitation.
Facebook began as a localized college campus social networking site in 2004. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg recently stated the site had reached 200 million users worldwide. To start your Facebook profile, fill out the "Basic information" section right away to keep default settings (which could contain misleading information about you) from creeping into your profile. To change or add to your profile at a later time, click on "Edit my profile."
Add friends: Building your network on Facebook is easy. First, import to Facebook the addresses from your e-mail program's address book. On the tool bar across the top:
You can also add friends who are not on Facebook. The default setting selects all your non-Facebook contacts. But it is not advisable to send a "join" message to all your contacts since many of them may be more business acquaintances rather than friends.
To avoid this problem, either uncheck the box at the top that says "Select all," and then check the boxes next to the contacts you want to invite, or just leave "Select all" checked, and uncheck the boxes next to the contacts you don't want to invite. When you are done, click "Invite to join." Alternatively, you can avoid this step by clicking "Skip."
Search groups: Joining groups on Facebook is another way to increase your exposure, talk shop with colleagues and generate contacts. To find groups:
Status: Like LinkedIn, Facebook allows you to tell everyone in your network what you're up to.
On your profile page, choose what you want your status updates to include. The status feed can contain:
If you want to join many groups or add numerous links, you might want to do one a day to keep your name sprinkled on your friends' pages more often rather than just inundating them all at once. If you're not careful, and they have their view preferences set to show their friends' activities, you may be hogging space on their status feed sections, thereby turning those friends into enemies.
MySpace was launched in 2003. By September 2006, it had surpassed 100 million user accounts. Although the site has gained a reputation as catering to teenagers and "wannabe" celebrities, its slideshow feature can be used as an effective - and free - marketing tool targeting a young demographic.
Create a slideshow: Here's how to create a slideshow. After you log in to your MySpace account:
Go to the area of your computer where your photos are stored, and double-click on the photo you want to upload. Browse and repeat the double-click function until all pictures you wish to upload are done. When you are finished transferring pictures to photo upload, hit "Next."
The "Next" box defaults to a two-bar screen providing a default name "My photos" with a blank box below. Click the button to the left of the box to rename your file. When you are done:
Your pictures will come up on the screen at the left.
You can add captions to the pictures in the boxes to the right of each picture. When you have finished adding captions, hit "Done editing" at the bottom of the page. (Remember, your slideshow should be professional. Be mindful when attempting humor, and consider each picture's potential impact on your business before uploading it. Also, posting inappropriate or copyrighted pictures is not allowed; the penalty is that MySpace will permanently cancel your account.)
Sharing your slideshow: To create a slideshow with your uploaded photos and a link for the slideshow you can send to potential clients, do the following:
To upload your pictures onto your profile page using the second option:
To preview your slideshow, click the "Preview profile" button. Your slideshow will appear on your homepage. If you want to edit your captions:
If you are happy with the slideshow, click "Save changes," hit "Profile" again, scroll to "My profile," and you're done. You have just created your first MySpace marketing slideshow. Later, you can add or delete photos with just a few clicks. Updating takes one to two minutes per picture.
Last but not least is our own social networking site, the GS Online Forum, a popular destination for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) where users share information and advice. Only ISOs and MLSs may join. To set up an account:
Posting on the forums is easy. The MLS Forum is the most popular one. To ask a question or post a comment, click the "New topic" button.
Then proceed as though you are writing an e-mail. When you are done, hit "Preview" to see how your post will appear. Then hit "Submit" to post it. To comment on a post, hit "Post reply," and follow the same procedure as for posting a question or comment.
Wolf Stiles, The Green Sheet Inc. System Administrator, is upgrading the Forum to add new features and functionality. Stay tuned, and be prepared to cast your net even wider.
The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.
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