There's more to social networking than a page on Facebook when it comes to marketing your video business, professional experience, branding, services and products.
It is a necessity. For many, social network content is a turnoff. For others a frustrating task taking up too much of their already limited time. But for all of us who seek to expand our reach in the video business, social networking can be a rewarding experience. While many in the business appear to overdo their efforts with endless daily micro-blogs on Twitter, meaningless jabber on Facebook or overwhelming uploads to YouTube, which might turn people off instead of getting them to tune in, it beats doing nothing. If you don't spend a little time each day building relationships via social networking you are handicapping your potential. What you don't know about social networking can hurt your business. And there's a whole lot more to playing the game than Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
Why isn't Using One Social Networking Site Enough?
In spite of being a household word there are more options to consider than the site that spawned a movie. Everyone has heard about what happens when all the eggs are placed in one basket. Though it does take planning and a significant investment of your time, spreading the word about your video business over several networks will not only help you gain exposure, it will keep you from getting lost in the depths of a site that gets millions of posts a day.
Have you heard of Jaiku, Ning, Orkut, Faceparty, Eons or Gather? How about MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn or PartnerUp? Some of these sites are more popular in other countries, but that doesn't mean they can't be useful in establishing your brand or expanding your business relationships and marketing base. The world truly has become a global community. Distance and location are no longer relevant. Business references can come from anywhere on the planet.
Until recently, in fact, Orkut (owned by Google) was the number one social networking site in India. According to ZDNetAsia.com, Facebook only just snagged the top position there as the most visited social networking site with 20.9 million visitors as of July, 2010. Orkut, 19.9 million, got nudged out.
Tell yourself it doesn't matter who you connect with in India. You might not offer video services outside your Anytown, U.S.A. service area with a population of 20,000, but think about this: there are world renown videographers from the Philippines, the United Kingdom and other countries. They are brought to PVAs (professional video associations) and national video associations around the country to share their styles, talents and knowledge. Perhaps one of them spoke at your last association meeting.
Leads, links and referrals can come from the relationships you establish by participating in not only the popular local social network, but from anywhere in the world. Being in a destination location, I've had videographers from many states and other countries contact me regarding someone they know who is coming to California seeking local video services. This is what can happen when you participate in multiple social networking environments.
Different Experiences From Different Approaches
Not everything works for everybody, which is Another reason to spread connections over many sites rather than just one with the highest membership.
"Not only do I get an occasional gig through LinkedIn," says Missouri-based video producer Grinner Hester, "I often catch up with old colleagues I would have lost otherwise. Over and over this has brought revenue to my company. We are all in the friend-making business. I can't tell you how important it is to be on top of [their] mind when someone you once worked with needs something."
Philip Hinkle, Frogman Video,, on the other hand, says, "I don't do much there. Every now and then I go to it. LinkedIn is great but I only have so much time for social networks."
Daniel Casper, of Manhattan, Illinois, prefers Facebook, saying, "I am not an expert, but I have had great luck with Facebook. Brides posting [video] highlights on their pages and getting calls from other brides wanting to book us from seeing our highlights online."
Hester works the system, not only with LinkedIn, but Facebook and other social networks as well. Hinkle likes to micro-blog on Twitter, preferring the short and sweet links in giving and receiving information across the industry, following those who provide it. Casper lets his brides do the work with the realization that such endorsements are more powerful promotions than just about anything he could do himself. And J. Michael Long, JML Multimedia, Mississippi, prefers a mix of personal and business commentary, adding that Facebook works best for his style of marketing.
"I have used Twitter with little response, Facebook with great response, Ning with good response and LinkedIn with no response," says Long. "I'll probably drop Twitter. And Ning, after four years there, (Ning recently went to an all pay system, from being basically free), I don't use it as much now. But Facebook is a keeper!"
The secret to success with a huge site like Facebook, according to Long, is to post "like anyone else would, but now and then slip in a comment or post from your business site. Let people get to know and like you, then they will approach you for business."
Virtually all of those interviewed for this article stressed that constantly hammering with micro-blogs and social network site sales pitches, ads and promos for business will turn people off, eventually causing them to "unfollow, unfriend, or disconnect" with you. They might simply hide your connection and no longer read or refer your posts.
How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Networking and Marketing?
On average, I spend about an hour a day working or reviewing the sites on which I participate. It really shouldn't take much more than that to scan and respond or generate one or two posts that keep you in front of your friends, followers or connections.
Long's suggestion of being social with the occasional business-related post is a good one. It can be difficult to maintain a good balance between advertising/marketing and social interaction. It can also be difficult to not get caught up in the latest political or social brouhaha, but unless that's where you want to go, try to avoid doing so. It's simply not going to be good for business overall.
Bill Mecca, Mecca Video Productions, New Jersey, says that while the time he puts into working his social site networks doesn't result in huge returns, he thinks it could over time. Mecca goes with the more social approach, followed by occasional reference to his love for music (Mecca also plays the saxophone) and then plugs a few of his documentary videos.
"I believe that sites like Facebook and LinkedIn that allow you to connect with friends old and new, former and current business associates, are a great asset. Making connections is what it is all about."
But Mecca too, warns of overdoing the marketing thrust, referring to it as abuse and comparing it to the "used car salesperson" approach.
"While some use social network sites to aggressively build business, that can be a turnoff to many," said Mecca. "I don't like the hard sell. Let me know what you are doing, keep me updated and if I need you I know where to find you. I don't want to feel like I'm walking onto a virtual car lot and salespeople start circling like vultures."
The majority of those participating in my research for this article agreed that an hour or two at the most and a mix of social and business posts and responses is key to building the relationships necessary for expanding your business reach. They also agree that a person can easily get caught up with reading and responding to posts, diluting any potential return on investment of time and often inadvertently alienating people, which is obviously bad for business and relationships that build business.
What Social or Potential Networking Sites are Out There?
Of those interviewed, most participate on the big three - Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Many are also using LinkedIn, Digg, Ning, Delicious and Flickr to a lesser degree. Long and Mecca also use Blip.tv and of course a huge portion of independent professional video services providers either self-host their video or use Vimeo.
Also during my research I came across a huge list of social networking sites featured on a wikipedia.org page. Some sites do not specifically qualify as "social networking" sites, but some component of their function provides for a certain degree of social interaction, networking and connectivity. In my research I discovered that quite a few who work these sites are concerned with what I'll call "The Dilution Ratio" meaning that there are simply so many members and so many posts that individual efforts get washed away in the flood.
This has a lot to do with my suggested strategy of utilizing more than one site and spreading the word around not only by participating in the larger sites, but the less popular ones, even those more popular in other countries or regions. Planet Earth is a big place but the Internet, along with other business and social realities, outsourcing, etc., has resulted in no location being truly out of reach. Spread the word about who you are, your business and what you can do. You are no longer limited to your hometown unless you want to be. According to ComScore (www.comscore.com ) as reported at ZDNet (Asia), India is now the 7th largest market for social networking, behind the U.S., China, Germany, Russia, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Frustration Remains but so does the Potential!
I'll leave you with two avenues of thought about social networking sites from two different points of focus. Chip Thomas, an independent videographer in Australia, shared the following sentiments:
"In my opinion the deluge of nonsense on all the personal network sites has had many turn a deaf ear to most of it. I follow maybe five people on Twitter. One hardly ever tweets at all. The others are political figures and a radio [show] host. One person whose tweets I never miss [does so] only two or three times a week. The other two are at least daily and often many multiples daily and their message is lost because of the volume. There almost seems to be a bit of narcissism to it all."
In a blog article, "Integrating Social Networking Sites in SEO and Internet Marketing Strategies" August 8, 2010, Adriana Noton writes: "Social networking sites are now dominating the time spent on the internet of many users. Almost everyone seems to have their own Digg, Twitter or Facebook account and also accounts on other social networking sites. These sites have surpassed even the best search engines in traffic and amount of users. These sites have million(s) [of] user accounts and even higher traffic every day. This is the reason why social networking is very important in your planning despite your personal feeling about it."
Devise a strategy for yourself and start working it on a few social networking websites today. Now, more than ever your presence on the Internet is crucial to acquiring video business opportunities and establishing relationships with the people who need your services.
Sidebar: The Top 10 Social Networking Websites
According to TopTenReviews.com the top 10 social networking websites place Facebook in the No. 1 spot. MySpace follows but Top Ten Reviews says that the central focus here is social networking. TopTenReviews states "not many people would want to send their business associates or family to a site that displays the kind of material MySpace users post," and suggested that users should consider using "WordPress if (their) interest is more than social networking and non-professional blogging." Below is the rest of the Top 10 list:
AOL-owned Bebo is "gaining ground" and very popular in the United Kingdom and ranked third on the Top Ten Reviews list.
Friendster is No. 4, and enjoys popularity in Asia while "making an impact" in the U.S.A. No. 5 hi5 is a true global social networking site with more than 70 million members and no ads ..."yet." It has its weaknesses, according to Top Ten Reviews.
Orkut (Google-owned) is popular in Brazil and India but is struggling to grow in the U.S. You must have a Gmail account as the updates, messages and friend requests are sent to your Gmail account.
PerfSpot is relatively new and aimed at college students and young professionals. You can also set up an internet store with PerfSpot as the host.
Zorpia is "the largest social network you've never heard of," says Top Ten Reviews and there are membership fees.
Netlog, relatively unknown in the U.S. is ranked No. 9. It offers profiles, photos, clans (groups), video uploads, music and networking with friends.
Habbo wraps it up at No. 10. Habbo is a social site that mixes gaming and chat rooms.
Readers will, however, be amazed at the list to be found at Wikipedia.org. Keep in mind that though social network marketing for your business is considered a must today to establish relationships and reconnect with potential business contacts, you can simply use it for social engagement without trying to sell something. Oh, and if you're into the dark world of Gothic and industrial sub-culture, there's always VampireFreaks.com.
Earl Chessher is a veteran career journalist and professional video producer, working in California and marketing throughout the U.S.A.