Week before last I gave a presentation on self-promotion and marketing strategies to Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty members, a lively – but not particularly tech-savvy – audience of farmers, wineries, small specialty food processors, and restaurateurs. I knew the group especially wanted to learn about online social networking, so a large part of my talk centered around the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter triumvirate.

Here’s three of my main points, distilled:

triumvirate1
1. WHICH ONE? All three sites afford opportunities to interact with users and share text comments, photos and video, so if you’re new to online social networking, how do you know which sites to try? Each one has a distinct personality and culture. Facebook can be compared to an informal block party where you mingle with neighbors and friends. It often feels busy and chaotic. LinkedIn can be likened to a chamber of commerce mixer where it is all business all of the time. Twitter is more like a huge cocktail party where you wander around amongst clusters of people, deciding whom to listen to and who to pass on by.

(Credit for these apt metaphors goes to blogger Hildy Gottlieb. Among the overwhelming abundance of articles on online media, I find her writing holds great appeal for the non-techie networker).

2. BUILDING COMMUNITY These online social outposts are great for community-building and developing relationships. Your audience is out there, socializing with like-minded folks about such things as their favorite hobby or brand, and now you have this unprecedented opportunity to meet, greet, and chat them up, in a way that is personal and genuine. This approach is the antithesis of mass-market media campaigns of the days of yore.

Occasionally I get direct messages via my LinkedIn account from vendors such as printers and photographers looking to sell me their services. The hard sell turns people off, including me. Save other mediums for selling, such as your website and email newsletter.

3. TELL YOUR STORY All of these sites require you to set up a profile, which can simply be a few lines about you or your business or organization, or an extensive curriculum vitae with pages of links, photos, video, and more. Before you throw something up there, think carefully about how you want to represent your organization, which further ties into developing your brand.

branding?

branding?

Branding is the first step to getting the word out about your organization. But first you need to know, what is that word? You must be able to identify your company’s personality, objectives, and audience, then you can utilize various online media to disseminate your brand’s story, and branding is all about storytelling. Does your organization have an interesting production technique? Is there a charismatic figure in your company’s history? People love to know this stuff. It helps them personally connect to your brand because it’s what makes you unique from the competition.

Once you settle on what this message is and how you can use it to set up your online profile, be sure to keep it up to date, and consistent from site to site, and also consistent from online venues across to your other ‘traditional media’ marketing strategies.

If you’d like to view the presentation in its entirety – which goes on to cover email newsletters, blogs, branding and more – click here. If you’d like to listen to an audio recording, click here. Heck, listen and watch both together, it’d be like you were actually there at the event itself (minus the delicious lunch!).

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