If your business limits its online presence to advertising banners and blogging, it's missing out. The Internet provides powerful networking opportunities that allow users to effectively target their audience by logging on to social sites like LinkedIn, Digg and more. Take advantage of these tools by asserting your company's presence online and reaching more potential customers, business partners and employees.
Share your favorite sites on the Web with potential clients and business partners by commenting on, uploading and ranking different newsworthy articles. You can also create a member profile that directs traffic back to your company's Web site.
- Reddit: Upload stories and articles on reddit to drive traffic to your site or blog. Submit items often so that you'll gain a more loyal following and increase your presence on the site.
- Digg: Digg has a huge following online because of its optimum usability. Visitors can submit and browse articles in categories like technology, business, entertainment, sports and more.
- Del.icio.us: Social bookmark your way to better business with sites like del.icio.us, which invite users to organize and publicize interesting items through tagging and networking.
- StumbleUpon: You'll open your online presence up to a whole new audience just by adding the StumbleUpon toolbar to your browser and "channel surf[ing] the Web. You'll "connect with friends and share your discoveries," as well as "meet people that have similar interests."
- Technorati: If you want to increase your blog's readership, consider registering it with Technorati, a network of blogs and writers that lists top stories in categories like Business, Entertainment and Technology.
- Ning: After hanging around the same social networks for a while, you may feel inspired to create your own, where you can bring together clients, vendors, customers and co-workers in a confidential, secure corner of the Web. Ning lets users design free social networks that they can share with anyone.
- Squidoo: According to Squidoo, "everyone's an expert on something. Share your knowledge!" Share your industry's secrets by answering questions and designing a profile page to help other members.
- Furl: Make Furl "your personal Web file" by bookmarking great sites and sharing them with other users by recommending links, commenting on articles and utilizing other fantastic features.
- Tubearoo: This video network works like other social-bookmarking sites, except that it focuses on uploaded videos. Businesses can create and upload tutorials, commentaries and interviews with industry insiders to promote their own services.
- WikiHow: Create a how-to guide or tutorial on wikiHow to share your company's services with the public for free.
- YouTube: From the fashion industry to Capitol Hill, everyone has a video floating around on YouTube. Shoot a behind-the-scenes video from your company's latest commercial or event to give customers and clients an idea of what you do each day.
- Ma.gnolia: Share your favorite sites with friends, colleagues and clients by organizing your bookmarks with Ma.gnolia. Clients will appreciate both your Internet-savviness and your ability to stay current and organized.
Sign up with these online networking communities as a company or as an individual to take advantage of recruiting opportunities, cross-promotional events and more.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a popular networking site where alumni, business associates, recent graduates and other professionals connect online.
- Ecademy: Ecademy prides itself on "connecting business people" through its online network, blog and message-board chats, as well as its premier BlackStar membership program, which awards exclusive benefits.
- Focus: Focus is a business destination where business professionals can help each other with their purchase and other business decisions by accessing research and peer expertise. Most importantly, Focus provides open, quality information for all businesses that is freely available, easily accessible, and community powered.
- YorZ: This networking site doubles as a job site. Members can post openings for free to attract quality candidates.
- Xing: An account with networking site Xing can "open doors to thousands of companies." Use the professional contact manager to organize your new friends and colleagues, and take advantage of the Business Accelerator application to "find experts at the click of a button, market yourself in a professional context [and] open up new sales channels."
- Facebook: Facebook is no longer just for college kids who want to post their party pics. Businesses vie for advertising opportunities, event promotion and more on this social-networking site.
- Care2: Care2 isn't just a networking community for professionals: It's touted as "the global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference." If your business is making efforts to go green, let others know by becoming a presence on this site.
- Gather: This networking community is made up of members who think. Browse categories concerning books, health, money, news and more to ignite discussions on politics, business and entertainment. This will help your company tap into its target audience and find out what they want.
- MEETin.org: Once you've acquired a group of contacts in your city by networking on MEETin.org, organize an event so that you can meet face-to-face.
- Tribe: Cities like Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago have unique online communities on tribe. Users can search for favorite restaurants, events, clubs and more.
- Ziggs: Ziggs is "organizing and connecting people in a professional way." Join groups and make contacts through your Ziggs account to increase your company's presence online and further your own personal career.
- Plaxo: Join Plaxo to organize your contacts and stay updated with feeds from Digg, Amazon.com, del.icio.us and more.
- NetParty: If you want to attract young professionals in cities like Boston, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando Fla., create an account with the networking site NetParty. You'll be able to connect with qualified, up-and-coming professionals online, then meet them at a real-life happy-hour event where you can pass out business cards, pitch new job openings and more.
- Networking For Professionals: Networking For Professionals is another online community that combines the Internet with special events in the real world. Post photos, videos, résumés and clips on your online profile while you meet new business contacts.
Niche Social-Media Sites
Consider linking up with one of these social-media sites to narrow down your business's target audience. You'll find other professionals, enthusiasts and consumers who are most likely already interested in what your company has to offer.
- Pixel Groovy: Web workers will love Pixel Groovy, an open-source site that lets members submit and rate tutorials for Web 2.0, email and online-marketing issues.
- Mixx: Mixx prides itself on being "your link to the Web content that really matters." Submit and rate stories, photos and news to drive traffic to your own site. You'll also meet others with similar interests.
- Tweako: Gadget-minded computer geeks can network with each other on Tweako, a site that promotes information sharing for the technologically savvy.
- Small Business Brief: When members post entrepreneur-related articles, a photo and a link to their profile appear, gaining you valuable exposure and legitimacy online.
- Sphinn: Sphinn is an online forum and networking site for the Internet marketing crowd. Upload articles and guides from your blog to create interest in your own company or connect with other professionals for form new contacts.
- BuzzFlash.net: This one-stop news resource is great for businesses that want to contribute articles on a variety of subjects, from the environment to politics to health.
- HubSpot: HubSpot is another news site aimed at connecting business professionals.
- SEO TAGG: Stay on top of news from the Web marketing and SEO (search-engine optimization) industries by becoming an active member of this online community.
General Social-Media Sites
The following social-media sites provide excellent opportunities for businesses to advertise; promote specials, events or services; and feature published, knowledgeable employees.
- Wikipedia: Besides creating your own business reference page on Wikipedia, you can connect with other users on Wikipedia's Community Portal and at the village pump, where you'll find conscientious professionals enthusiastic about news, business, research and more.
- Newsvine: Feature top employees by uploading their articles, studies or other news-related items to this site. A free account will also get you your own column and access to the Newsvine community.
- 43 Things: This site bills itself as "the world's most popular online goal setting community." By publicizing your company's goals and ambitions, you'll gain a following of customers, investors and promoters who cheer you on as you achieve success.
- Wetpaint: If you're tired of blogs and generic Web sites, create your own wiki with Wetpaint to reach your audience and increase your company's presence online. You can easily organize articles, contact information, photos and other information to promote your business.
- Twitter: Is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you answer the question, "What are you doing?" by sending short text messages 140 characters in length, called "tweets", to your friends, or "followers."
- Yahoo! Answers: Start fielding Yahoo! users' questions with this social-media Q&A service. Search for questions in your particular areas of expertise by clicking categories like Business & Finance, Health, News & Events and more. If you continue to dole out useful advice and link your answer to your company's Web page, you'll quickly gain a new following of curious customers.
If you want to secure high-quality talent during your company's next hiring spree, you'll need to maintain a strong presence on popular job sites like the ones listed below.
- CareerBuilder.com: Reach millions of candidates by posting jobs on this must-visit site.
- The Wall Street Journal's CareerJournal: The Wall Street Journal's CareerJournal attracts well-educated professionals who are at the top of their game. Post a job or search résumés here.
- CollegeRecruiter.com: If your firm wants to hire promising entry-level employees, check CollegeRecuriter.com for candidates with college degrees.
- Monster: Post often to separate your business from all the other big companies that use this site to advertise job openings.
- Sologig: Top freelancers and contractors post résumés and look for work on this popular site.
- AllFreelance.com: This site "offers self-employed small business owners links to freelance & work at home job boards, self-promotion tips" and more.
- Freelance Switch Job Listings: Freelance Switch is the freelancer's online mecca and boasts articles, resource toolboxes, valuable tips and a job board.
- GoFreelance: Employers looking to boost their vendor base should check GoFreelance for professionals in the writing, design, editing and Web industries.
- Yahoo! Hot Jobs: This site is often one of the first places that job seekers visit. Post open opportunities and check out informative articles and guides to gain insight on the hiring and interviewing process.
- Guru.com: Build your company's repertoire with top freelancing professionals by advertising projects on this site, otherwise known as "the world's largest online service marketplace."