LINDA MOORE: Does Social Networking Help You?

Posted on August 5, 2009 by LCT Magazine

FRIENDS? Facebook, Plaxo, Linked In — I’ve recently joined them all. I am not Tweeting yet. Give me a little bit of time to figure these out first. Maybe you recently got an email requesting that you be my friend.
NO TIME FOR THE TIME: Before joining these sites, I knew very little about social networking. My 14-year- old daughter is well versed in Facebook for which I was surprised to find her page. I really thought these sites were only for kids to communicate back and forth with each other. I have since been enlightened. 
My forage into social networking came as a result of hearing Arthur Messina of Create A Card speak at a New England Livery Association meeting explaining the virtues of promoting your business on these sites. He talked about how Bill Faeth of Silver Oak Transportation in Nashville uses the site to drive traffic to his website thus improving his search engine ranking. I was impressed so I thought I’ll give it a try. 
Linked In
First, I joined Linked In. I was told that this was the adult version of Facebook. Once I signed up, I went about finding “friends” to add me to their contact list.
Caution #1: For those of you thinking about doing this, be prepared to invest a lot of up front time.
Caution #2: Be prepared to receive a lot of email. I recommend that you actually set up a separate email account for social networking. I set it up on my personal email and now what used to receive 5 -6 emails a day receives 40 most of which I only delete. The reason for all the emails is that I joined groups. 
Caution #3: Be very selective as to which groups you join and if they are not pertinent, get out of them. I still have not figured out how to opt out of some of the groups I joined. You get a daily update from each of the groups when they change something or add something to the site. I found great groups to make contacts for operators: Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners, Meeting Planners International, Young Transportation Professionals, and many more. The problem with some of the groups though is that a lot of crap gets posted in them. I saw the same posting on taking your pets on vacation in three different groups I joined. 
Caution #4: As you add your customers to your contact list, be selective about letting competitors on there too. Once you are a contact you can see all of the contacts of your contacts. It’s almost like you’ve opened your address book to those folks. Make sure that those you allow into your circle are ones you would want to have access to it. 
Caution #5: Put a picture of yourself up on these sites. Do as I say here not as I do. I sent a contact request to someone who I knew casually and he questioned who I was. Two emails later he accepted my request but a photo would have saved me the time. 
I have been on Linked In for two months and I do need to say that I have not seen anyone doing anything spectacular here as far as garnering business. I know every time Philip Devlin takes a trip because he updates his contacts. I have recently joined the Maryland Limousine Association Group which seems to just have started as a group. I do find good sources to talk to in editorial for stories but I still have not justified my time investment in it. 
I joined Facebook last week. This time though I used my work email — big mistake. Note to self — learn from past experience. Facebook is much more social than LinkedIn. Facebook pages often include photos of people’s children, details of what they are doing for the weekend, etc. My problem with Facebook is that I am not sure I want my work friends that in touch with my personal life and I know I wouldn’t want my customers to know that much about me. I did see some folks though doing cool things to promote their businesses. Jim Luff promoted all of his weekend specials and told folks to mention that they are a Facebook friend to get additional discounts. 
My jury is still out on Facebook. It too is a time drain. Arthur Messina of Create A Card says he spends an hour a day on all of social networking. He is everywhere and does a great job of promoting his products and services on it. He is promoting his webinar on the sites. He also Tweets.
So far in this experiment, I like Plaxo the best because it is the least intrusive. I think of it as my public rolodex. 
I would love to hear from other operators who are using these social networks to promote their businesses to hear how you are doing it and how you don’t get sucked in on the time drain that these sites seem to be. Jump on the sites and invite me to be your friend so that I can also see what you are doing. My jury is still out on these. I am open to new things and I think this truly is the way of the future but I am hesitant. (I still haven’t gotten rid of my VCR and I bet I could find an 8-track player in my garage.)
— Linda Moore, LCT East Coast Editor
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