Use Social Media to Build Your Business Network

It seems with all the hype around social media, once you hop on the bandwagon your online network will just build itself.

It seems with all the hype around social media, once you hop on the bandwagon your online network will just build itself. Unfortunately it's not that simple. Unless you're the one who posted the latest video of Susan Boyle, or you have the only key to some long-needed remedy, it's unlikely you'll have content that will spread virally (on its own).

What does this mean? To build a solid online network, you need to put in the time and effort just like you would offline. The main difference is that online you can use your content as a means of getting the word out, and hopefully it will do some of the work for you.

How to Spread the Word

Anybody would get overwhelmed reading the incredible variety of ways you can share your information online. Here is a simple program, if followed consistently, that will see a natural growth in your online attention:

1) Write a blog or online articles. Generating content gives you some fuel to spread the word. If you have a site that has been the same forever, time to start adding fresh information. This content will be a tool for growing your online presence.

2) Sign up for Twitter. It's not hard, and at first just watch. Use searches to find people of interest in your domain, and begin to interact with them. Thank them for their tweets, answer their questions, offer information to them. In the beginning, self promote only once in a while. As you become established, you can self-promote more. Every time you do a blog post, share it here. If you launch a product, have a great sales day, or anything that promotes your company, share it here. If you read another blog of interest to your customers, share it here. Let it be casual and fun, but mostly have it be a give and take exchange.

3) Sign up for and StumbleUpon. Add your blog or articles and comment on other blog and articles.

4) Share your content with people you know. It's simple to send out an email when you have a new blog post. Tell people about it when you talk. You must promote your content.

5) Comment on other blogs. Use a reader to track these blogs and comment on them regularly so you become known by them. Choose 3-5 that you will read daily. Choose ones that are of interest to you, and you want to be noticed by the owner or other comment authors. Better yet, write a blog post that refers back to a blog you like, and let the author know you have linked back to him/her.

6) Join one online community. Choose one that is of genuine interest to you. Make sure to post at least once daily. Set up your signature so it always links back to your site and blog.

7) Choose 1-2 successful social networkers, follow them and learn from what they do.

Creating a network online is just like in person. You need to give in order to receive. Let people get to know you. Don't just sell, sell, sell. Give away tidbits for free, help people out when they ask for it. By creating online relationships, those people will then promote you.

How much time does this take?

Social media could be the black hole of time consumption. It's best to set aside a specific amount of time each day to do social media. An effective schedule that should allow you to get all of the above done might be:

• 20 minutes in the morning to read blogs, write blog, post on Twitter, make comments on sites
• 5 minutes mid-afternoon to post on Twitter and make comments on sites
• 5 minutes end of day to post on Twitter and make comments on sites

That's a half an hour a day of time invested. And if you use a mobile device, that time doesn't even have to be at your desk. It's worth the effort because when you finally have that big idea and want to launch it, you will have an established network that will spread the word for you.

Bonnie Landau, from