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Online Networking: Tips for Becoming an Expert Using Social Networking Software

By: Leesa Barnes

Networking online using social networking software (SNS) has risen in popularity. However, as the hype dies down, so too does people's enthusiasm for using these websites.

How can you continue to leverage the power of SNS and still find clients, get leads on job openings and develop joint ventures, all while keeping yourself interested in using these websites? You need to develop your expert status using advanced tips so that business and jobs fall into your virtual lap.

The advanced tips provided below are perfect for those using SNS - such as ecademy.com, openbc.com, ryze.com or linkedin.com - for business reasons. Also, if you've been using SNS actively as part of your promotional campaign over the past 6-months, you'll find these advanced tips will re-energize you to login to each system and build your expert status.

Moderate a forum that doesn't duplicate another one. Nothing can say that you're an expert better than leading a forum on a niche topic. In order to build a successful forum, focus on addressing a particular problem that your target audience faces and create a forum based on solving that problem. For example, I manage a forum on ryze.com which addresses a woman's fear of speaking about her accomplishments. This is a common problem I found that my coaching clients complained about, so I started a forum to address this issue. You will have a more active forum if you start one that isn't similar in scope to one that already exists.

Stay out of flame wars. Nothing can kill your expert status than to get stuck in the middle of a flame war on a forum or between two members over notes or private messages. Stay out of these misunderstandings between other members. Even if you think you can wave the white flag with a neutral response, resist the temptation. Because emotions are high, your good deed will be misinterpreted and you'll be accused of taking sides.

Join many forums and post well researched replies on topics that solidify your expert status. Become a member of as many forums as your membership level allows you to join. Then, post replies only to the threads that pertain to the topics you know the best.

I used to believe the opposite (join only a few and post regularly on everything), but a conversation with Scott Allen, co-author of The Virtual Handshake, changed my mind. I now post replies on the following topics - networking effectively, follow-up marketing, personal branding, workplace issues and office politics. You should determine what topics you know very well and post well researched and well thought out replies on those areas.

Turn posts into articles. This is a great follow-up to the tip above. If you're posting meaty replies that contain a wealth of information, you can leverage your time spent on SNS by turning your posts into articles. Then submit them to free article marketing websites, such as ezinearticles.com or pitch the idea to your local newspaper. This is yet another way to solidify your expert status and use article marketing to gain credibility.

Know your market intimately and ensure that this is communicated on your profile page. I don't mean that in a romantic sense, instead you really need to crisply define who wants to buy your product or service. I target women who are working full-time and are running a business on the side. I provide tools to help them become their own boss in 12-months or less and this is communicated on my profile page. Ensure that your profile page isn't buzzing with dozens of flashy banners ads, and instead, focus your message so your target audience wants to do business with you.

Greet new members, but only those who are in your target market. Most SNS have a new members list on their homepage. Each week, I recommend contacting at least 5 new members who are in your target market and offer a tip on how to use the system effectively. But go one step further - look at that new member's profile and suggest a topic that they can start on your forum based on one of their interests. This really works and you won't be accused of spamming because each message is unique to that individual.

Post interesting, thought-provoking, silly, funny or controversial topics. This should be handled with care, however, if done well, this is a great way to get noticed. People will come to anticipate your posts as they know you'll stir their emotions. Just stay away from name calling, personal attacks and comments that demean people.

Visit http://thevirtualhandshake-network.ryze.com and find the topics that have more than 20 replies. Click on it, read through the replies and you'll soon see why that particular thread received so much attention.

Ask for help. Another awesome way to raise your profile. Too often, people join SNS and become frustrated with all the features. However, don't be afraid to ask for help if you're confused. And, asking those who seem to be the experts at using SNS is a great way to put yourself on their radar.

Just updating your profile page on a SNS isn't enough. Like any marketing and promotional effort, you've got to make the effort to form relationships, build rapport and raise your credibility using the tips above. Only then will people feel comfortable enough to spend their money on your products and services or refer you for a contract or job opportunity.

About the Author:

Disclosure: The author moderates a network on ryze.com.
Leesa Barnes, Chief Divapreneurô, helps women start a new business or launch an idea on a shoestring budget. Leesa is on a mission to help 10,000 women become their own boss by 2010, even if they lack the confidence or start-up capital to do so. Sign up for the Divapreneurs At Work ezine by visiting www.savialane.com and receive a F R E E ebook called "The One Thing 85 Women (and One Man) Used to Build a Profitable Business (And It Ain't Money)."

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