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Friday, July 11, 2008

Killer Campaigns: Social Networks

I've resisted talking about social networks because I have an obvious bias against them. I want to be upfront and admit that. But I will discuss the pros and cons as they occurred in my experience and let you decide for yourself if it would make a good marketing tool for your career.

Social networks are groups like MySpace, Facebook, Linked In, or LiveJournal. They work off the 'friending' model. I wouldn't say that you are judged by the number of friends you have on your list, but it does seem to be the thing to do with your site. Social networks are wildly popular among bloggers who like to chat and they form tight circles on very specific interests.

This is an excellent marketing tool if it is in your comfort range. It is not in mine. Truth be told, the friending part turns me off a little. I love making friends, I just don't want to do it according to some master plan community. I'm such a rebel! :o)

I see Live Journal as primarily more blog than social circle but it does do both, while Linked In is more network oriented and less bloggy. Live Journal is also starting to look more professional and go the way of WordPress and Blogger. Its formats are far more businesslike now than they were when I first tried it, and judging by their emails they seem to be going through a transition phase.

When I was looking for a blog vehicle, I tried several. LiveJournal was the first and it immediately irked me by not allowing me to label my blog with the title of my choice in upper and lower case letters. Then it hated my passwords. By the time I found a password and name it liked, I was too frustrated and forgot to write it down in my password book.

And now, you guessed it, I don't remember them. I think the final straw was when it welcomed me into the fold with a cutesy email like I was some 16-year old.

MySpace was both a good and bad experience. You are bombarded with ads and it is easy for 'adult' sites to post on your page with a live link bringing visitors back to their sites. The basic template of information is pretty rigid. Unless you're a code monkey, you are limited to what it allows you to post. (Blogger for example, gives you a lot of leeway on what modules of information you can load.)

MySpace can be customized and there are plenty of places that will give you their templates for free. Some of these are GORGEOUS! I absolutely love the art backgrounds that are available. Here's one site. This is where I got mine.

Yes. I am on MySpace, but it is just another site where people can find me. I do update it occasionally. Unlike LJ, MySpace was incredibly easy to set up, a little harder to customize, but once you're up, it is easy to maintain. Another plus is that they don't bug you with emails on their 'progress'.

A drawback to MySpace is that it is a graphics-heavy site so everything loads slowly. But it is very easy to friend people and you can find each other by typing in a name or certain parameters for the people you're looking for. In that regard, MySpace is quite useful. It is very easy to find people with the same interests.

To its credit, quite a few people have found me through MySpace, even an old high school friend, so it's quite effective as a friending model. It's the only reason I've kept it.

As for Facebook, I signed up once, but I thought they wanted too much information from me so I withdrew. Big Brother knows too much about me now. I don't want to encourage him further. Like any other social network, if it is comfortable to you, use it.

As a marketing tool, it doesn't hurt to be seen in any of these vehicles. It would probably be most advantageous to people who really work the system, people who like to chat and visit. People who socialize. (Which explains my utter failure. LOL!)

Social networks are hugely popular with younger people. And I'm convinced you have to be under 25 to know how to customize MySpace with any efficiency.

This is where I tell you to do what I say and not what I do, given my obvious friending weakness.

Tips for making the most of social networks.

• Friend often. On LJ, you friend other LJers through a hyperlink that is listed on a friends' page. On MySpace, it is more visual, and you can see who your friends are by their icons on its friends' page. Mine is my book, though some people do use pictures of themselves. Being a visual person, this is more appealing to me.

• Update regularly. People come back to see what you're talking about.

• Belong to groups. This is especially useful in networks like MySpace and Facebook. I think LJ has a group feature too. I believe it's called 'communities'.

• Make announcements. MySpace has a neat feature that allows you to make announcements to all your friends.

• Make your space attractive. Always bear in mind who your audience is. Live Journal was very limited at one time, but I've noticed some lovely new formats lately. I've found a few that look so professional, I almost didn't realize it was a LiveJournal account.

MySpace is very difficult to customize without a template. And therein lies the biggest problem. You have too many choices for templates. I browsed sites for hours and I barely scratched the surface of available options.

I will tout any promotional vehicle that has legs. Social Networks definitely work. Use them, but don't limit yourself to them. If you restrict yourself only to those you can 'friend' that cuts into your potential market. Not everyone will be in a social network, so it pays to cast your net in different waters. This is why I use MySpace even though I am not the target audience.

One more benefit of social networks is that they're free. LiveJournal does have a paid site that frees you from those nasty ads, but the basic plan is still free. Free is good--especially for the author on a budget.

Add social networks to your list of potential vehicles in your marketing plan.

**An updated post on Social Networks is in The Self-Publisher's Punch List.

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J.K. Coi said...

Wow, it is daunting isn't it? When I started all of this and looked into the various networks myself, I couldn't believe it.

I had already been on Facebook, so that wasn't such a big deal. And I had already been blogging for a few years, although it was intermittent and my blog page was very basic.

But Myspace almost killed me. It's awful! But I got one of those nifty free templates too and tweaked it a bit. It's a good thing I know a little html code and some other tricks that made this easier.

I'll see everyone on Monday!

Maria Zannini said...

I almost didn't sign up for MySpace. I was so overwhelmed by the options and countless ads.

But I have to admit, without a lot of extra effort I have met more people through MySpace than LJ or Linked In.

P.S. Looking forward to your visit!

MaryF said...

I'm on MySpace but never update. And I need to make a different page for my writer ID because my students know my other ID.

I joined GoodReads, and a couple of NING groups for writers and ....something else, I don't remember. Again, I don't update and take advantage. So time consuming!!!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Mary!
I've heard about GoodReads. I'll have to check them out.

All these promotional vehicles take a toll on the most precious commodity of all--our time.

While it's important to keep our name out there, each of us has to make a decision on where to expend the bulk of our energy.

I would never have given MySpace a second thought if it weren't for the fact that people actually find me through that thing. I haven't had to do anything--which appeases the lazy oaf in me. (grin)

J.K. Coi said...

The one thing I'm not sure about is all the Yahoo groups out there. It would be great if they were open, but when you have to "join" to see the content and then you're just getting a constant stream of chatter in your inbox, I think it kind of defeats the purpose because you can't possibly keep up with it all.

Maria Zannini said...

I forgot about Yahoo groups. I will add them to my list of topics for Killer Campaigns.

You are right in that you have to join in order to see what's going on in most groups. I've been on a lot of them.

When they get too chatty I generally leave, but a couple of them that while chatty tend to cycle a lot of useful information. In those cases, I keep them on digest so I'm not flooded with email.

Thanks for reminding me about Yahoo groups. That's a great topic for next time!

J.K. Coi said...

On the Yahoo groups even the digests can be annoying. There are a few that I get at least five digest emails per day alone.

But you're right. I stay with them because they DO have some good information, and it's nice to be able to connect with other authors and have another medium by which to promote

John Anealio said...

A strong feature of Good Reads are the groups. Once you are signed up you can join groups based on specific genres and authors. It seems like a great way to interact with people that are interested in your niche. There also seems to be quite a few authors who are members themselves.


Maria Zannini said...

Hi John,
Thanks for the tip! Being able to join by group/author makes it very attractive.

I'm glad you stopped in!

Anonymous said...

Considering that there are now so many social networks catering to such a wide range of niches, my biggest problem is finding ones relevant to me and related to my specific interests or product niches. Google seems to be inefficient and returns alot of irrelevant results. A good resource that I use to find them is this search engine for social networking sites.

Maria Zannini said...

What a great link, turbochargeman!