Like any other communications tool, social networking is only as beneficial as the user allows it to be.

Maximizing value from such web sites as Facebook, YouTube and others was the focus of a social-networking seminar led by Mike Machak, director of public relations at Crye-Leike Realtors. The event, held at OutCentral on March 30, brought in more than two dozen attendees, all poised with laptops and note pads and ready to sharpen their online skills.

The emphasis of this class was focused more on the business applications of online social networking, but the lessons learned could be easily applied to personal networking as well.

The class covered three major aspects of online social networking; methods and ways to create your message, using viral media to share that message and how to use online tools to carry the message and monitor it's response.

An informal poll of attendees was informative: 100 percent use Facebook, 50 percent use YouTube and only 10 percent use Twitter. Regardless of which venue is your favorite, Machak said, the goal is to be conversant with them all at some level, and be able to integrate your message across the various platforms.

It’s important not to use social networking to “push or sell,” but rather as a way for people to “get together, gather, and engage. Politeness and kindness matters,” Machak said.

A good way to clarify your message is to use a Word or other word-processing document to write your post, giving yourself time to create a positive and clear message, rather than rattling off something not thought out that untold numbers of people might see,” he said. And when making a post, it can be important to find an appropriate visual to go along with the message.

“People often post something and sign off,” Machak said. “Don't just post and walk away. Be there for follow-up. It's important to stay with your conversation.”
Attendees also got tips on how to use social networking to elevate and add credibility to their brand. Having something interesting and positive to share with others, like tips, ideas, experiences, and expertise will bring more response and open a dialogue with others, he said.

Machak also shared some of his favorite sources of ideas and information on the best ways to use the net. PRDaily.com is one site that has articles weekly on ways to use the Internet for social networking, site building and carrying your message to others. Another interesting site is helpareporter.com, where reporters look for stories and quotes, and is a valuable resource for promotion.

The technical aspects of computer desktops were covered as well, with an emphasis on how their use can facilitate online efforts. For example, a dashboard feature can link all networking tools together in one place, allowing the user to keep up with e-mail, posts, tweets and Google alerts. Leapfish.com was highly recommended by many attendees, who also advocated for Linkedin.com as a central source for business communications and networking. For creating blogs and messages, wordpress.com got the nod.

Machak’s main advice was this: Use social networking in a positive and responsible manner, and you’ll achieve your desired results.
 

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