By John Beath
As the Internet continues to expand its digital reach into our work and private lives, it also provides countless new ways to communicate and add profits to your business. The latest craze on the Internet is social networking sites that connect you with people around the world.
So how can you benefit from joining Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn?
Aside from the obvious benefits of connecting with relatives and old friends, social networking sites allow you to connect with people from around the world who have similar interests. These social networking contacts, or “friends” can become readers, listeners, viewers, Web site visitors or customers.
Many social networkers believe everyone is connected by just six degrees of separation. This “Human Web” theory has become very popular on Facebook. A Wikipedia entry describes the Human Web this way: “… if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth.”
If you are still wondering how social networking can help make you money, here are a few examples:
- If you have a new book, Web site or blog go up on your social networking site, you can let everyone know about it with a post. Add pictures to help your message be noticed. You also can ask others to pass the word to their contacts, which will result in more contacts for you and your message.
- To maximize your digital reach, you should try to get as many friends or contacts as possible. Finding potential contacts are as easy as searching your contact’s contacts and following a quick, simple procedure to request them as friends. You will also receive lots of requests from other social networkers who want to add you to their social network. As an example, my network includes dozens of anglers from around the world. These contacts help me with stories and provide good quotes from real people. For instance, if I’m looking for a good quote from someone about fly-fishing in Argentina, I look through my contacts and send a personal message or post asking my question.
These social network sites do require some time to manage and can get addictive, so manage your time wisely. When you first set up an account it will require more time as you browse through contacts. Or you can simply find members who have lots of similar contacts and ask them to suggest the people on their list become friends/contacts with you.
Here’s a brief explanation of three of the major social networking sites:
www.Facebook.com – This site is currently the most popular social networking site, especially among adults. Many OWAA members and supporters belong to Facebook. Most recently, Coleman created a fan group and has more than 400 members at this writing.
www.MySpace.com – Very teen-oriented and not as popular among adults.
www.LinkedIn.com – Career-based site mainly for business contacts.
www.Twitter.com – This site lets users post 140-character messages to “followers.” Users can post and receive a variety of ways including online or their cell phone via text messaging. Celebrities, politicians, fishing guides, talk-show hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists use Twitter to “Tweet” short messages to their followers. “Tweeting” as it is called, recently became the rage and can be of great benefit to your business. Here are two examples:
- If you write for a newspaper or have a blog and have a special event or news story, you can “Tweet” short updates throughout the day to keep your followers updated and informed. This creates a bond with your readers and gives them more than they can get through a newspaper or other traditional media.
- When you have new products, articles or anything else to promote, use Twitter to announce it. A friend of mine in Canada is a booking agent for fishing lodges and has 500 Twitter followers. When a new trip becomes available or he wants to post a fishing report, he uses Twitter to quickly send a short message to everyone. He says Twitter has really helped his business and is a great service to his customers.
As you can see, using social network sites can benefit you greatly by helping you make more money or get more readers, viewers, listeners or visitors to your Web site. Still unsure about joining? Consider this: A 2008 University of Minnesota study found several educational benefits to users of social network sites. The study revealed that 94 percent of the observed students used the Internet and learned technology skills while using social network sites. The networkers also became more creative and developed new or diverse views and communication skills.
As outdoor communicators we must pay attention to the future generations of our readers, viewers and listeners if we want to be able to reach them.
John L. Beath is first vice president of OWAA and owner of Pacific Lure Communications. He is a writer/photographer and owner/editor of 14 Web sites and 10 online stores. He is also an Internet marketing consultant for several businesses. For more information about getting connected on the Internet, visit his site at www.webuildyourwebsite.net.