Friday, February 3, 2012


Social networking gives professionals and enthusiastic members of the public a great way to connect and share information about scientific or cultural topics.
A niche social network can benefit small, grassroots projects as well as large institutions, achieving many objectives simultaneously. A social network allows members to  e.g., exchanging information, making personal connections, fostering dialog and awareness on a topic, as well as fundraising or promoting products and services.
Here are some tips and considerations for getting started…
Use existing sites.
Establish a presence on the main networks your audience is already using — e.g., via a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn group, other established online communities, and soon, Google+. These systems do a lot.
Start a blog. 
If you have not already, start a blog.  Your organization’s staff can write articles, or your can recruit independent bloggers and  launch a blog network with between 3-20 independent bloggers. The world of blog networks is not yet saturated, and a common platform is great for both bloggers and the host organization. A blog provides a core of interesting content which helps anchor a social network.
Consider your objectives.
What are your goals? Educating the public, connecting professionals or enthusiasts, learning more about your constituents and their wants, fundraising or promoting products and services, driving membership, rallying support for a cause, providing online customer/member support, or simply keeping up with the Joneses? And, what’s the value of those outcomes in financial or intangible terms?
Reality check.
Launching a social network is expensive, and the benefits may not be financial. Market research firm Hypatia Research found in 2011 that only 25% of  companies that launch social media have a positive return on their investment, and of those, the return was 0.5-2% ROI. (N>400 executives and employees at companies using customer-facing social media platforms.)
Plan features.
What kinds of features will your target community want? What features do you need that don’t exist in existing or inexpensive networks? See last week’s post about Ravelry and ExhibitFiles for ideas on features. You might draft a succinct social network policy which will keep interactions positive, civil and legal, but not over-police.
Most major platforms have virtually identical features, but they differ in their overall ease of use, and ease of launch.
Plan resources.
According to Bryan House, VP of marketing for Acquia (a company which provides support and hosting for the Drupal system), most social networks require the following three roles:
  • Community Manager – This person nurtures and fosters participation. This includes routine tasks like removing spam, and subtle tasks that maintain a positive vibe in the community. If you have a blog network, the community manager recruits your bloggers, makes sure your bloggers are happy, encourages them, advocates for them within your organization, and promotes new posts on FB, Twitter, and other networks. At a minimum, this is 20% FTE, more if they write blog posts. — In the long term, this can be your biggest expense.
  • Designer and CSS developer - This is the person who creates the themes for your pages, has an eye for a sensible user interface, and creates the CSS templates which display your site. Some designers also do CSS, but more often this is a team of two people. Usually system adminstrators are poor designers. Typically, there’s a constant stream of needs for new CSS.
  • Dev/Ops – This is a new generation of system administrator. They are responsible for the code and infrastructure. This is a more technical role than a typical webmaster, but many wemasters may be able to do it. If you expect a lot of traffic, the person should understand multiple-server architectures and how to optimize and cache content. This role is not needed if you use a full-featured commercial service.
This all gets costly in staff time, or outside consultants and companies. More complex sites also have extra developers work on the site.
Also, hosting is a bigger deal with social networking, so expect to pay. The difference is that customized content takes more server resources than anonymous visitors. While a typical web server might be able to serve a million generic web pages a day, you might only get  1-10% of that volume for signed-in users who are looking at personalized profiles and streams.
Choose a platform. 
There are hundreds of options for software. They range from hosted services, to free or commercial software which runs on your own servers. You will almost exclusively want a system hosted at a dedicated hosting facility (the cloud) because it’s more reliable than running on your local infrastructure.
Each software platform has tradeoffs.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How To Use Niche Social Networks To Build Your Business

For a wide variety of professional services, joining a niche social network for your industry is a great way to learn from others, share your expertise, and create opportunities for referrals online.
If you are in trade, retail or some professional service categories, getting listed in an online directory can also get you more exposure online. Directory sites where customers can post or rate their experiences with service providers give you a great opportunity to build an online reputation and get online referrals.
Fill in your profile completely. Add the photo, list your full range of services. Add as much information as you can. An incomplete listing makes you look unprofessional and disinterested in attracting new business. Visitors will always be drawn to the most interesting and comprehensive listings not anonymous silhouettes with only a name and a phone number.
Participate. Frequently. Share your questions. Answer other peoples questions, and be a valuable resource. The same "Givers Gain" principles apply here. Frequent participation creates relationships in the same way as BNI or any other in person networking group..
Overextend your activities. Sign up for a few, rather than all the opportunities you see for your industry. Pick the most active site and start there. Its much, much better to be a frequent contributor on one or two sites, than join them all and barely participate.
Flog Your Services. Social networks are online communities. The same rules of in-person networking applies here. Don't stand up in the online room and drone on about why people should buy from you. Demonstrate the value of your services through your interactions and knowledge.
If you pick the right one or two sites, and work them consistently, you will quickly see some results on your efforts. Overtime you will build a reputation and the leads will start to follow.
Caroline Wright is a professional virtual assistant. Her company, The Wright Solution, has provided internet marketing services and executive assistance to small business owners, realtors, coaches and non-profits, working with them to implement and execute marketing campaigns and streamline administration since 2000. She is a long-time member of the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), and holds their Certified Virtual Assistant designation (CVA), the Certified Real Estate Support Specialist (CRESS) designation and has passed the industry's Ethics Check exam. Professional Virtual Assistance | Internet Marketing | Social Media Support. Interested to learn more about social networking?
FREE e-Course: Social Media and How to Use it Effectively in Your Business.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

What is a "Niche"?

A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing; therefore the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment and an example would be a bridal shoe shop because there is not very many of them around.

A niche social network is a social network comprised of members of a particular niche market. The development, population, and administration of such a social, while possessing properties of a global social network does require different skills and special treatment by the developer. This board is for the discussion of those differences.