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Friday, June 13, 2008

Social Networking And Bottom-Line Business

By Terry L. Brock

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

That is an old adage that is particularly true with technology and with the new phenomena of social networking.

This trend of connecting with people that you know, or even casually have met, is gaining more and more momentum. It is similar to Relationship Marketing in that you connect with people. Done properly, it can serve as a way to get feedback from various people who are in your list of contacts.

However, there are many people that are treating it like just another way to grab business cards. Much like those who attend a lot of “Networking” functions and brag about how many business cards they’ve distributed, unless there is a real relationship with someone, it doesn’t matter. You want to connect in a genuine, real way with people who can help you in business. To “connect” with someone you don’t know through a popular social networking site would be comparable to collecting a thousand business cards from people you don’t know. It only leads to spam and those doing the spamming are not respected and certainly don’t know much about real Relationship Marketing. They also don’t see real business benefits by spamming people either with spam email or other frivolous connections.

The next generation of social networking is emerging now. It thrives on people who have a specific interest. It could be a group of podiatrists in Chicago, people interested in a given candidate in a particular area or members of a “group within a group.”

One technology empowering this is Ning. The Chinese name for “tranquility” is the root of this site started by Marc Andreessen (yes, THAT Marc Andressen of Netscape fame) and Gina Bianchini. These two geniuses have come up with a technology and style that helps people connect online for specific purposes.

I’m a member of one Ning group called “NSA Next” which is for interested “young-minded” speakers of the National Speakers Association. It provides a way for us to connect online and talk about matters, within the speaking business, related to our own interests.

That is what Ning, and other successful social networking sites are about. They provide a way for people to gather and share information.

Contrast that with some other sites which only have people “connecting” with someone they barely know. Many people think that the more “contacts” they have the better they are.

Well, I guess that will matter just as soon as we all hold a contest and give a prize to the person with the most business cards in their closet!

It doesn’t matter how many people you say are your “contacts.” What matters in business is cultivating profitable relationships baed on value for value exchange.
Social networking relates beautifully to what I call R-Commerce, Relationship Commerce. It is about relating to people in true value-for-value exchange.

It is natural, as people like to connect with others. Technology fuels that ability. This is what technology has done through the ages. Think of the first telegraph. It gave people the ability to connect with others over a long distance. Newspapers gave people the ability to share their ideas with others. Radio let people hear a live voice and opened a world of technology unknown before that.

Television moved to a new dimension to see people moving live.

Today, the Net is different than these other media. It is more like an on-going act, not something that is stuck and unmovable. It is the ability to connect with others immediately from anywhere. This is where we’re moving. It is spontaneous and ever-changing.

What are some implications for your business? Think “Sale of the Hour” if you’re in the neighborhood. Of course, the neighborhood could be your website. It could also be a physical location.

We really want that human, pressing the flesh, seeing someone in person experience. We still want and will always need that face-to-face meeting time. However, that is the ultimate limit. You still can only be in one place at one time. You preclude all other possibilities when you’ve selected one place.

My friend, Corbin Balls says, “You can’t share a virtual beer.” We’ll always need face-to-face meetings. However, technologies like Ning provide the ability to get close to a specific group of people with a special interest. Check out what others are doing with Ning at and see for yourself.

More and more jobs are being found through social networking. There are probably some who still get hired by traditional newspaper classified ads. However, that market is fading fast. Social networking and instant messages are replacing it for many today.

Yes, there are some who still have a traditional resume on paper. However, more and more jobs are offered and accepted through social networks like Twitter (limit of 240 characters) MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others. This is where people congregate. This is where people are hanging out more and more. This is where smart marketers hang out as well.

Social Networking is a logical extension of both technology and our desire to connect with real, genuine relationships. Serious marketers and business people of all types are looking into it. The benefits have only begun to appear.

Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at or through his website at