Monday, May 4, 2009

Your Social Networking Strategy: A portal or a porta-potty?

Someone you follow on Twitter just posted this important message -  "I'm going to the gym, it's going to feel great!"  On Facebook, Friend 214 placed an important quote from President 16 on your wall. 

What did you ever do without social networks?

With millions of users on networks such as Facebook and Twitter - nearly 18 million users on Twitter alone (representing over 10% of internet users per eMarketer, April 2009), social networking has turned into an explosive personal and professional marketing tool.  When used properly, these networks have an amazing impact on search engine optimization, brand awareness, and potential sales generation.  From a personal standpoint, it is a great way to network with friends and family - and with the fastest growth segment on Facebook becoming Baby Boomers, it's also replacing greeting cards and party invitations! 

The key issue is this:  Is your social network a portal:  providing valuable new ideas and links to your user base, or is it a  porta-potty: flushing valuable time and space down the drain.  

As a portal strategy, your social networking sites provide newsworthy and timely links to information that you're both interested in and providing to your "followers and friends."  I'm finding my own Twitter links (@Robrosenberg) chock full of customized headlines and tips that are targeted right toward me.  After all, these are fellow tweeters who I have opted in to follow.

Opposite the portal strategy is the porta-potty strategy; the need to tell the world how you're feeling or what you're watching.  There's a place for this, but frankly, most people are washing their hands of this approach.  Kind of like the chat rooms of old when AOL first came out - at first it was fun and different, then it gets old and boring.  

If you're using social networking for personal reasons, have at it.  Tell the world how you're feeling, what you're wearing, and what color best matches your personality.  Your Friends will either opt in or opt out, and that's what the space is for.

For business purposes, the use of social networking is a portal that can open many new doors. If you are using it as a porta-potty, don't let the door hit you on the way in.