It’s too presumptive to assume that the medium you use for networking, is the same as all of your prospects. If you are trying to generate sales leads via online networking, you should expand your presence on niche networking sites.
This is becoming increasingly important as many experts agree that focused (or niche) networking sites provide a more relevant networking environment.
Jeremiah Owyang, a social-networking analyst at Forrester Research describes this concept in The Washington Post:
“Companies are learning that these smaller communities may reach people that are more valuable to their brands. It will someday feel more like information than marketing.”
As the internet has become boundless, the challenge has shifted from “locating the information you need” to “filtering out the information you don’t need.” Feed readers, search filtering, niche networking sites and news aggregation are just a few tools that help you limit the information you receive. Without these tools, the information still exists on the internet however, it only becomes relevant once the extraneous content is removed. Apply this to your online business referral network.
It’s All About Context
The best way to evaluate an internet strategy is to compare it to its “real-world” counterpart.
The reason why we drop our children off at daycare, work in an office, and perhaps even meet with a special client in a conference room is because we create context by choosing the appropriate environment. Theoretically, all of these activities could take place under the same roof. After all, it would be rather convenient to go to an “imaginary place” where we could eat breakfast with our family, go to work, and play cards with our friends.
As appealing as this sounds, “convenience” must come second to “context”. Specific environments create value because they define your role within that space. For example, an accountant on a racquetball court is a racquetball player; a racquetball playing accountant on Twitter is neither.
In fact, there are little if any physical spaces which do not have a specific context. Picture a printing service which provides printing solutions for small businesses. Handing out business cards at a Microsoft Exposé is not the best use of the owner’s time. Yes, there may be small business owners amongst the crowd but it would make much more sense if our printer marketed in a more specific environment.
The Big Three Networking Sites
A faux pas many small business owners (and their social media consultants) make, is to limit themselves to the big three networking sites; Facebook, Twitter, LinikedIn. This is not a focused referral system.
If the “environment” defines the “context” of our activities, then referral marketing at a “one-stop-shop” business/social networking site, is the equivalent of going to Central Park and striking up a conversation with anyone in a suit.
The number of internet users with multiple profiles is likely to grow as we start to think beyond the immediate advantage of communicating online and begin to effectively communicate online.
Question: How many total profiles do you have online, counting all (social networking) web sites?
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project
Date: Jan. 14, 2009
one 43% two 25% three 12% four or more 13% don't know 4% Field Date - Apr 8-May 11, 2008
Universe: Country: United States
Sample Size: 2251
Notes: based on 328 Internet users who have a profile on a social networking site
Contact Information: Pew Internet & American Life Project
Washington, DC 20036