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Visit the social networking site’s home page and review their statistics and user information.

For example, Facebook lists the following statistics:
* More than 500 million active users
* 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
* Average user has 130 friends
* People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
* There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
* Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
* Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
* More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.
To find this relevant data, most social networking sites list their user data on their site. This information can often be found on their “About” page or on their “Press” page. The above information was found on Facebook’s Press page. You can also search online to find social networking ranking information which may also list user demographics.

Features – Does It Fit Into Your Plan?

Some social networking sites are easy to use and offer an abundance of features. Others do not. When deciding which sites are right for you, make a list of what you want to accomplish with social networking. We talk about your goals and social networking plan in the next steps. Once you have your goals established, you can compare sites based on that information.
For example, Facebook offers the ability to create a Fan Page. A Fan Page works almost like a website on Facebook. You can include a sales page, welcome video, content and any number of links and promotions on your wall. It’s a nice way to build a community and a brand.

Facebook Fan pages allow for customization. You can add photos, discussion forums, micro-blogging, videos, and events. And a Fan page offers you the ability to differentiate between “friends” and “fans”. An update to your Fan page does not show up on your profile wall. This means you can post things to your fan page that your friends don’t see. It’s a nice way to separate your activities and prevent what may feel like SPAM to your friends. You can promote without any hesitation.
And when you feel like sharing information with your friends you can simply “Share” a fan page post on your profile.
A Fan page also provides you with analytics tools and data points so you can test and track your success.

Your first step when creating a social networking plan is to consider which service or site you’ll use first. Take some time and evaluate the pros and cons. Make sure your audience is present on the site. Make sure the site fits your goals and objectives. And take a look at the outside applications and tools that can make your social networking efforts easier and less time consuming.
Action Step: Take a look at your social networking options. Make a list of the top three to five. In the next step you’ll create your goals for your social networking site. You don’t have to choose just yet. You can let your goals help you determine the best site to start with.

Step Two
Establish Your Goal(s)

On the very first page benefits for social networking were highlighted. These benefits can be further broken down into goals. Possible goals for social networking include but are not limited to:
* Marketing
* Connecting/partnerships
* Authority and credibility
* Traffic
* Content ideas
* Target market research
* Product launch

Let’s take a look at them individually:

Social networking can be a fantastic resource for finding quality partnerships. You're able to meet and connect with likeminded people from around the world. It gives you a chance to not only research and study potential partners but to also put yourself out there as a valuable resource for other compatible businesses. Partnerships can range from simple link exchanges or advertising exchanges to larger scale partnerships and new business developments.

Vendor Relationships
You can find great providers via social networking sites as well. You might find the perfect bookkeeper, distributor or even a great marketing specialist. Social networking helps you connect with your ideal providers, vendors and contractors around the world.

Mentors & Educational Opportunities
Social networking is a fantastic way to learn. You’ll glean new information from potential customers, from gurus in your industry and from those people you meet along the way.
Enjoy the learning process and the vast amount of information available on social networking sites.

In many cases the people you connect with via social networking sites can change your life and your business. It’s not surprising to find lifelong friends, associates and customers while networking online. You’ll learn from others and provide value.
Take care however, to not spread yourself too thin. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again. It’s the quality of your online relationships not the quantity of them that counts.
New Customers
You’ll likely also find a whole new customer base with social networking. You’ll meet friends of friends who could use your products or services. You’ll connect with people who have been looking for the solution you provide. It’s a great way to do business.

At its simplest, social networking provides you with an opportunity to link to relevant content, promotions and offers. You’re also able to establish your brand. This helps motivate liking and build a community.
Authority and Credibility
Content is the foundation of social networking sites. It’s an exchange of ideas. In the case of Twitter the content is limited to 140 characters. Facebook and MySpace offer a more broad opportunity. However, it all comes down to content. Through your content you can establish your authority and credibility in your industry. By sharing valuable information and guidance you position yourself as a trusted resource.

Social networking sites are supreme traffic generators. One link in one post on your social networking site of choice can send hundreds if not thousands of visitors to your website. It drives traffic through linking in your posts. It also drives traffic simply through your profile. People click to learn more about you.

Content Ideas
You can use social networking to generate content ideas for your website, blog and content marketing strategy. It’s actually a great place to find ideas. You can eavesdrop on conversations to learn what your audience’s most pressing problems are. You can start discussions to learn what they want to know. You can also tap into trends.

Target Market Research
Social networking is a fantastic place to learn more about your audience. In fact, short of sitting down with a focus group, it’s likely the best place for your target market research.

Product Launch
You can also use social networking to launch a product. It takes a bit of planning and forethought however; you can really boost your launch results. Here’s an example of how you might use social networking to launch a new product or service.
1. Create a build up to the launch event. Post any sneak peeks, samples, and testimonials for the product a few days before the event.
2. Offer special incentives. You can also offer a limited discount or sneak peek viewing to the first 100 visitors, first 100 fans on Facebook or even the first 100 people to reTweet your offer. This is also a great way to gauge interest in your new product.
3. Blog about your new product and link to the new blog posts from your social networking profile page.
4. Publish content relating to your new product and link to the new content from your social networking profile. For example, if you’re launching a new ebook, you can write an article on one of the topics covered in the ebook. You could also publish a testimonial or link to a rave review.

Monetizing – Making Money and/or Boosting Profits
Okay, so you know you can use social networking to research your audience to drive traffic and to launch a product. You can also use it simply to make more money through direct or indirect monetization tactics.
Direct monetization means you profit directly from your social networking activity. An example would be publishing an advertisement in a post and earning a fee. Some social networking sites allow this, others don’t.
If you create an application and sell it on Facebook or MySpace then that’s also direct monetization.
You can also employ indirect monetization. This is the most common means for profiting from social networking. In this case you might promote an affiliate product or service. You might link to a post on your blog that reviews an affiliate product. You might also link to your own products to sell them.

Conclusion - Defining Your Goal
There are many things you can accomplish with social networking. In fact, there are so many it’s easy to get carried away. Again, heed the advice in the beginning of this section – start small. Choose one or two goals that you know you can achieve. Focus on success. Once you’ve accomplished your goals you can add more challenging goals to your plan.
When considering your goal take a look at what would most benefit your business. Do you need more traffic? Are you looking to build more loyalty within your company? Are you money motivated and looking for more cash? Make sure your social networking goals support your business goals and you’ll be off to a great start.
Action Step: Create your goals for your social networking plan. What do you want to accomplish with your social networking efforts?

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