Are You Treating (And Growing) Your Social Network as a Business Asset?

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The more I look at the results my business and others are getting from social networking, the more convinced I become that SN is a far better way to get traffic than search engine optimization, or SEO.

I think this is because SEO is, at its heart, an attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithms. But since Google does not publish or reveal their algorithms, it is impossible to know for sure what the rules of the game are.

I’ve seen companies work for months to get their site listed at the top of Google’s search results, only to fall to page 14 the very next day – for no apparent reason.

It’s like going into a casino, thumping your life savings onto the table without even knowing what the game is.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in SEO by emphasizing quality keywords, but you should remember that the real focus is on posting quality content. Too often I read (and I confess I have written content this way myself) stuff on websites that were clearly written for Google’s spiders rather than human readers.

(For examples of someone who got to the top of Google’s search results the RIGHT way, see Blogging to Dominate Keywords and Google and Blogging to Dominate Keywords and Google - Part 2).

If you write for human readers, write quality content and of course emphasize your targeted keywords without repeating these keywords to the point of distraction, search engine results will most often take care of themselves.

With apologize to John Lennon, search engine rankings are what happen when you are busy doing something else.

Which brings me back to social networking. I am coming to see social networks as business assets. Juliette Powell, author of the book 33 Million People in the Room, refers to your network as your “social capital.”

A search engine ranking, and all the hard work that went into achieving it, can be lost in a single day. But a large social network is an asset that can produce dividends in ways you never foresaw when you began building it. This is why business valuation experts take such things as “good will” and customer lists into account when putting a number to the worth of a business.

With every new follower I gain on Twitter, every new friend I gain on Facebook, and every new connection I make on LinkedIn, my social capital grows. But it also grows whenever I meet someone at a coffee shop and discuss ways we can contribute to each others’ business. Online and offline social networks are not exclusive, they should actually cross pollinate each other.

The old rules of offline networking still hold true. People will do business with other people they like, trust and feel confident in. The mission of my online networking is simple: give them good, helpful, informative content that solves their problems, and they will come.

Which is why people who send me tweets that are merely sales pitches for whatever they are promoting right now, are missing the whole point. They may possess a large list of contacts (for now), but they are doing nothing to build good will.

I believe that as I build my social network, I will someday benefit from it in ways I cannot envision right now. I may be offered a speaking engagement for a topic I have not yet developed, I may sell an instructional CD that I haven’t even recorded yet, or I may make meet someone who writes about me in his or her blog. (I may even be offered a job as V.P of Marketing for a Fortune 500 Corporation, but I’m not holding my breath).

All these possibilities are things I cannot foresee now, but my emphasis is squarely on building a network of people who like me, respect, me and regard me as good at what I do, i.e. building good will. That’s an asset that cannot be lost as easily, or quickly, as a search engine ranking.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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