Renee Prejean-Motanky

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10 Reasons Why Your Network Is Your Greatest Asset

In Business Development, Communications, marketing, Social Media on June 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

An individual’s greatest asset is his/her network. The network that’s an asset is the one made up of real relationships.

Facebook and Twitter have no value if you don’t use them properly.  In looking at profiles on these social media for a number of large and small businesses, I’ve observed that most of them aren’t going about it in the right way. Businesses jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons with the hope of generating sales. They load their news feeds with sales plugs and expect   “friends” to buy whatever they’re selling. They use Twitter to make announcements rather than to engage conversation.

The right way to use social media is to focus on building relationships. Wish friends and fans “Happy Birthday”; “Like” their statuses, share information and even provide  useful content that’s OUTSIDE of your business area of expertise to help them out (for example: share an interesting news item, a great sale on computer equipment, a super auto repair shop, great business tips, etc.). Show that your thread is useful and that you are there to connect with them, not simply sell them something and you will see results.

DON’T create a business profile and start adding people as friends – users hate this. Get to know your privacy settings and use your personal profile as the “face” of your company.

Below is a list from Steve Tobak of BNET on what you stand to gain from building a great network:

  1. Introductions. Whether you’re an entrepreneur in need of venture capital or a marketing VP looking for the best PR firm, you’re more likely to find it through your network than by any other means.
  2. Opportunities. Over a 30-year career, most of my major career and business opportunities came from my network. Business associates, friends of friends, casual conversations, business meetings, social events, whatever. But you’ve got to pay attention.
  3. Sorting out thorny problems. Anyone who thinks they’ve never met a work problem they can’t resolve has never been a CEO. The problem with problems is that they keep getting escalated until there’s nowhere left to go. The buck has to stop somewhere. And getting a fellow exec to help sort out a monster problem is a big plus.
  4. Recruiting. Perhaps the most critical job of any manager is to hire talented people, and the best place to find them is through your network. And not just for direct reports, but also for recommendations on peers, key employees, board members, you name it.
  5. Ideas. I don’t know about you, but most of my best ideas come from bouncing them around with like-minded people.
  6. Competitive intelligence. It’s a big, hairy global market and smart executives dig for competitive intelligence. Much of that info comes from sales and marketing, but where do you think they get it from? That’s right, their network.
  7. Sensitive issues. Top executives often face sensitive issues they can’t discuss with others at the company. Sometimes they just need an outside perspective from another CEO. For example, some of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s friends are Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Mark Hurd (when he was CEO of H-P, as well). Makes sense, doesn’t it?
  8. Seeing the big market picture. A huge component of any manager’s success is her ability to anticipate significant market changes. While nobody has a crystal ball, if you get enough anecdotal data from enough sources, you can get a pretty good picture of what’s going on.
  9. Moral support. Business is full of tradeoffs. Rarely are critical and complex issues black and white. When top execs wrestle with gray issues, it’s nice to be able to pick up the phone for advice and support.
  10. You don’t know what you don’t know. While there are exceptions, know-it-alls don’t typically get ahead. Smart managers know what they don’t know and that means they depend very much on comparing notes with others in their network.

Is your network your biggest asset?

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Writing is a Critical Marketing Skill

In Business Development, Integrated Marketing Strategy, Social Media, The Internet on April 29, 2011 at 1:01 am

Denny Hatch (an expert copywriter) wrote an article discussing why professional copywriting is critical for marketing. He shared a story in that article that has remained with me:

“What do you do?” a guy at a cocktail party was asked. “I’m a brain surgeon,” was the reply. “What do you do?” “I’m a write,” the guy replied. “Ah,” said the brain surgeon. “I’ve often thought that when I retire I’d like to try some writing.” “And when I retire,” said the writer, “I plan try a little brain surgery.”

I loved that story! It resonated with me for several reasons, but most markedly because I have continually run into businessmen and other individuals who believe that writing only requires stringing words together on paper. Good writing requires both talent and skill. And if your goal is to market a product, idea or service, create content that interests someone other than yourself or simply to share information with others, developing the skill and having a strategy for your content is essential.

Over recent years marketing strategy has changed in one very important way. To be successful, it’s necessary to become an active participant. Instead of coordinating external sources for short-term campaign execution such as in advertising, marketers need to take real-time action That means writing of all kinds…which can mean creating a Blog and making regular posts, contributing relevant comments to discussions taking place on the Web, adding value by sharing tools and ideas on various social media, writing articles for e-zines and even the simple act of communicating directly with customers and prospects via e-mail.

While it’s still preferable to hire professionals for major writing projects, some types of writing require an authenticity that can only come from “the horse’s mouth.” The purpose of content development is not to spout the virtues of your own products or services, but to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving your products.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a client or prospect that you’ve been communicating with online and they have a need for immediate information. They request it from you –> If your response is; “Sure, I can have that for you in a couple of days,” you’ve just missed an opportunity or possibly lost a client!

The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader and industry expert.

If you can’t step up to the plate and write engaging content that can be published now you’re not likely to survive in today’s highly competitive business environment. This is ever-so-clearly illustrated in David Meerman Scott’s book, Real-Time Marketing. Content Rules by Handley and Chapman also convincingly make the case for content marketing.

There are certain networks that require direct participation (without the help of a professional writer.) Linked In offers an example. Although it isn’t a formal network, the way you write is an important reflection on you and your business.


• Everything you write doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of formatting and graphic design.
• Short article formats work well if the content provides meaty, useful insights. An 800 word, tightly-focused article is more than ample for engagement and asks for less time than a bigger piece.
• Know your customers/clients well enough to write for them — being unsure how to flip focus from your company and products/services to address their needs is a huge obstacle.
• If you aren’t sure where to start, it’s the direct result of a lack of content strategy.
• Being crazy-busy is not an excuse to avoid developing content.

Writing is no longer optional. Marketing today is driven by content. Tools like the social media and other Internet publishing technology only demand more fuel (content) to feed the beast!

So, tune up your keyboard and allow the writer in you to escape!

He Just “Gets It!”… the wisdom of Seth Godin

In Business Development, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized on March 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Sharing Seth’s thoughts verbatim again (if you don’t already follow Seth Godin, you should)… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced what he’s talking about here… What about you?

Jumping the line vs. opening the door

Every morning, the line of cars waiting to get onto the Hutchinson River Parkway exceeds 40. Of course, you don’t have to patiently wait, you can drive down the center lane, passing all the civilized suckers and then, at the last moment, cut over.

Drivers hate this, and for good reason. The road is narrow, and your aggressive act didn’t help anyone but you. You slowed down the cars in the lane behind you, and your selfish behavior merely made 40 other people wait.

This is a different act than the contribution someone makes when she sees that everyone is patiently waiting to enter a building through a single door. She walks past everyone and opens a second door. Now, with two doors open, things start moving again and she’s certainly earned her place at the front of that second entrance.

Too often, we’re persuaded that initiative and innovation and bypassing the status quo is some sort of line jumping, a selfish gaming of the zero sum game. Most of the time it’s not. In fact, what you do when you solve an interesting problem is that you open a new door. Not only is that okay, I think it’s actually a moral act.

Don’t wait your turn if waiting your turn is leaving doors unopened.


In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing, Marketing Plan on December 1, 2010 at 3:18 am

 If the ongoing stream of news about economic recovery is tempting businesses to breathe a sigh of relief, that’s a mistake!

Being number one or number two is vital to gaining the scale and profile that generates profitable growth in a marketplace.  So, if you are stuck in the middle of the pack, it’s time to redefine your market if your goal is future growth. No need to be trapped by existing market definitions.  First, figure out what needs to be done, then act upon it.

To redefined your market for growth, you must first challenge your existing assumptions.  For example:

  1. Are you currently limited by your assumptions about geographical reach?
  2. The Products and service you offer?
  3. The types of customers you are targeting?
  4. The technology you will deploy?
  5. Your existing operational capacity and capability?

The second stage is to develop what if scenarios for potential new market assumptions.  Identify what new opportunities, risks and/or threats could emerge from these changes and determine the fit of your existing capabilities with these potential business ideas.

If new capabilities are required, ask what options exist for building them?  Businesses fall into the trap of competing within the status quo, when to be successful we ought to be reinventing the rules of the game.  The companies that capture the lion’s share of the marketplace are those that help customers realize wants and needs they didn’t even know they had.  In other words, by challenging the assumptions of their industries, these companies are propelled to greatness.  They have no competition, because they have redefined the essence of  their product or service.

Following are some great examples of what three well-known businesses did:

Southwest Airlines plane
Image via Wikipedia
  1. Southwest Airlines.  Airlines are notorious for price competition — a dangerous trap many businesses fall into with their competitors.  Southwest took a completely different approach to attracting customers by focusing on a target market all other airlines had previously ignored.  Southwest didn’t compete head-to-head against other airlines by offering better meals or other incentives.  Instead, it attracted those who typically drove to their destinations by making flying closer to driving… It offered the speed of the airplane with the economics and flexibility of driving.  The result? A profitable and healthy airline at a time when others are struggling to keep from closing their doors.
  2. Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
    Image via CrunchBase

    When Steve Jobs returned to run Apple in the late 1990s, he faced a personal computer business that had been out-gunned by Microsoft.  Since then Jobs has transformed Apple from a niche player focused on dedicated Mac users, to a global powerhouse that has created an ecosystem of providers and partners dedicated to bringing the best digital-based products and services to everyone.  Apple’s release of the iPod back in 2001 when most of us were carrying around clunky CD players and purchasing 12 songs at a time by one artist, Apple redefined how we access music.  With iTunes and the iPod, the marketplace changed dramatically.  We still receive the same end product — personal music, but with the added convenience of a “skip-free” interface the size of a tube of lipstick.  We can purchase one song at a time for .99 or $1.29 each.  When Apple launched the iPod there was virtually no competition.  Consumer access to music was exponentially increased.  While costs diminished substantially.  Rather than compete with the recording industry, Apple created its own industry and rewrote the rules.  Apple has used third parties to create the systems that underpin many of its products and services.  Most innovative, the company has generated a new industry focused on the development of iPhone applications.

  3. An example of a Trader Joe's storefront
    Image via Wikipedia

    Trader Joe‘s

    has redefined the neighborhood specialty supermarket experience for its customers.  AT Trader Joe’s, listening to customers –and their valued feedback– is not about a carefully calibrated contact center or extensive customer research. Rather, it’s about something much more simple, and simply human: a conversation among the customer and the “captains” and “crew members,” as its Hawaiian shirt-clad managers and employees are called.  In the end, Trader Joe’s business model allows it to respond to customer feedback in ways that other supermarkets cannot.   Suppliers do not pay stocking fees or “rent,” to place products on Trader Joe’s shelves, a widespread industry practice that’s anything but customer-focused.  With drastically smaller square footage and inventories than typical grocery stores, the company removes items that don’t sell well to make room for new products.  In a sense, Trader Joe’s entire inventory is the result of listening to customers –both their feedback and their dollars.  “We like to think of Trader Joe’s as an economic food democracy.” says management.

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How to Get Others to Market For You

In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing, Social Media, The Internet on August 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

It’s a well-known fact that word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful form of marketing. When people speak positively about your products and services, they often influence others to work with you.These days, with so many people communicating via social media networks, there are many more communications channels open to entrepreneurs…many ways to help build new relationships.

Word Gets Around

Here are some suggestions for getting others to spread the word about your business:

1.      Twitter.  Twitter is a world filled with sound bites.  It’s a great way to create a following, direct Web traffic, build brand recognition, and get feedback from all over the place. Not only can you, your employees and customers Tweet about your business, so can other businesses.  It’s important to remember that the conversations must be authentic or Twitterers will know.  It’s also important that you or someone in your company monitors what’s being said in order to respond or jump into the conversation when necessary.  Just as positive messages can be Tweeted, so can negative.  The ability for an idea or thought or message to generate a huge following is fascinating on Twitter. Since the emphasis on Twitter is brevity (A post can’t be longer than 140 characters) it’s important to learn the lingo—lots of abbreviations to become familiar with.

2.      LinkedIn.   LinkedIn is a great place to go to network for business. It’s also a great way to see who knows who within a business network so that you can leverage existing business relationships. A couple of good ways to use LinkedIn as a tool are:
                   1.   Answer Questions. The more substantive your answer is the more likely folks will want to connect with  you, refer you and/or work with you.
                  2.   Ask Questions.  By asking questions that generate a lot of responses, you can identify “qualified  prospects” in many arenas.  It takes thought and creativity on the part of the asker.

3.      Offer customer incentives. Some of the most valuable references can come from current customers since they are speaking from experience and their words will be more readily accepted than the words in an advertisement or marketing pitch. You might even share the wealth you receive as a result of customer referrals by offering discounts on future purchases or by offering cash back if a customer referral leads to a piece of new business for you. Not can this encourage customers to be vocal about your products and services but, by giving back, you’ll be strengthening your relationship with them.

4.      Pay for links. Your business’ website is only a click away on the Internet. Take advantage of that by offering incentives to other website owners who refer business by linking to your site. You should, of course, reciprocate and always say thank you.  You can also offer a percentage — such as 5 percent — to the site for any referral that results in new business for your company. There are companies that will automate much of the process for you and act as an intermediary between your company and those with websites who are interested in doing this type of promotion.

5.      Make cross promotion work.  Every business need to do some kind of marketing. Look for other businesses whose products and/or services complement yours and strike up a strategic alliance where you’ll market for each other. You can promote each others’ businesses with your respective clients. The agreement can be as simple as linking to each other’s Web sites, or you can each share the other’s collateral materials with customers.

6.      Facebook.  Facebook is an extremely useful to keep in touch with and reconnect with people. Creating an online profile to inform your personal network of what it is that you’re doing and/or creating “Groups” that you solicit your network to participate in can be a useful means of driving traffic and it can be a great publicity tool. Facebook traffic has been increasing steadily, currently taking the position as the ninth most popular domain in the U.S., accounting for 1% of all Internet visits

Executing plans like these can be a highly effective way of building brand awareness which, in turn, motivates new people to try your products or services when they are in need of them.

If you want to utilize social media successfully as a marketing tool to grow your business, remember that you have to use social media sites and tools in the same ways that your customers do, and for the same reasons. You also have to accept each community’s rules, you can’t make your own. Social media isn’t a one-way promotional channel; it’s a many-way interaction/communication channel. The key is Audience. You’ve got to know who you’re talking to.

Anyone else have any tried and true methods to share?

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Delivering a Great Presentation — Ten How-to’s

In Business Development, Communications on November 6, 2009 at 1:48 am
Microsoft PowerPoint
Image via Wikipedia

Finding a personal style and feeling comfortable as a presenter comes with experience. Nothing can boost your business like being able to present well. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born without the presentation gene. I have no idea why, but for me and many others, getting up in front of folks to talk isn’t easy!

 If you’ve ever sat through a presentation that was so bad it felt like torture, you understand how painful a bad one can be….you know those with a bezillion PowerPoint slides that the presenter just reads?

At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, if you’ve ever experienced a presentation that was so good it motivated you..maybe even changed your life, you know that’s the kind of presentation one should strive to deliver!  As a presenter, you can either open a door or set up a roadblock to growth – your growth, that is!

So what should you do?

Steve Tobak, a 20+ year high-tech industry veteran and former senior executive of a number of public and private companies. has been professionally trained as a presenter and he has had a few decades of practice. Here’s what I learned from him:

1. Developing the pitch. Start with your main point of view and a handful of take-aways. Then build a storyboard around that, one slide per thought. Keep the number of slides down and allow a few minutes per slide.  
2. The icebreaker. Start with something to break the tension (yours and theirs): a welcome gesture, an engaging or humorous anecdote, graphic or video, or some combination of those. Keep it relevant and appropriate. Don’t tell a joke.  
3. The old axiom. Old advice, but it works: First tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
4. If you Use slides, Don’t read what’s on the slide. Know the pitch cold (without having to look except for a brief cue) and speak in your own words. If you actually want the audience to read what’s on a slide, look at it and read silently along with them (only rarely.)
5. Engage the audience. Ask questions. If they don’t respond, try offering an answer and asking for a show of hands. Make the audience part of the experience.
6. Be accessible. Don’t stand behind a podium. Use a wireless microphone if one is needed. Get close to the audience and move from place to place while maintaining eye contact. Don’t overdo it and bounce around like a ping-pong ball. This will be distracting!
7. Pause for effect and emphasis. Practice being comfortable with silence for two or three seconds. It’s the most dramatic way to make a point. Avoid “ahs”,” uhs”, and other verbal crutches used to fill uncomfortable silence; they’re annoying and detract from the message.
8. Make eye contact. But only for a few seconds per person. Too short and you’ll fail to engage; too long and it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t bounce your eyes around constantly.
9. Use hand gestures. They’re engaging and interesting. But when you’re not, keep your hands at your sides. Don’t fidget, hold onto things, or put your hands in front of you, behind you, or in your pockets. Avoid nervous habits.
10. Don’t block the audience’s view. Don’t step in front of the screen or block it from view, except for the occasional walk-across. Gesture with your hand, but don’t touch the screen. Don’t use a pointer unless you must.

Very few of us are natural presenters; it takes practice. So stand in front of the mirror and practice, videotape yourself presenting to an empty conference room, or get someone with experience to watch you and provide feedback. If you can afford to hire a coach, do it. 

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In Business Development, Business Strategies, marketing on August 20, 2009 at 1:54 am
Giant Funnel Cap
Image by polandeze via Flickr

The funnel is a basic marketing concept that can have a huge impact on profitability and the success of your service business.

The theory behind the marketing funnel (sometimes referred to as a pipeline) is that you should offer something free or very cheap at the top of the funnel, then a mid-priced option and, finally, your highest priced services and products at the bottom of the funnel.

Many service professionals struggle with converting prospects into paying clients because we make the mistake of trying to sell expensive services without offering any lower priced options.  It’s important to provide an opportunity for prospects to experience your services and expertise at different price points.

Here are Three basic ideas for developing and implementing your funnel strategy:

First, draw a funnel shape on a sheet of paper — List the products and services that you currently offer.  If you see gaps in your offerings from free to high-priced, determine how to plug the holes by adding more product/service offerings and a range of pricing options.

Second, get lots of prospects into the funnel — Visualize the funnel with the large end at the top and the narrow end at the bottom.  You want lots of prospects at the top of the funnel.  Cast a wide net first by spreading your targeted message to as many folks in your audience as possible (this would include, prospects, current clients and former clients.)  The idea is to end up with your most ideal prospects at the top of the funnel.  A great way to do this is by offering something for free or at extremely low cost that will introduce you to them and demonstrate your expertise (an e-zine, special report, e-course, audio download, white paper, etc.) to entice them to allow you to add them to your database so that you can contact them again.

Third, guide them through the funnel —  Once prospects have experienced your expertise and get to know, like and trust you, they are more likely to spend more money on your services or products.  Each level of your funnel represents a step in the relationship-building process.  As you guide prospects through, increased familiarity represents the potential for increased profits.  You offer your higher-priced options only after they’ve experienced the lower priced ones.  As you provide several opportunities for prospects to sample your skills and knowledge at lower price points, the middle of your funnel starts to fill, enabling you to make money while earning the trust of clients and prospects as you give them the opportunity to try low to medium-priced options.

Make it easy for prospects to make the decision to buy from you.

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In Business Development, Business Strategies on July 31, 2009 at 1:32 am
He wears many hats
Image by KaroliK via Flickr

Typically, the CEO wears many hats: communicator, coach, problem solver. And while there may be others who can also fill those roles, there’s one critical job only a CEO can do and that’s link the outside world (society, economy, technology, customers) with the inside world (your company).

How do you do that?

Focus on four tasks:

1. Define “outside”: It’s important to identify and define which external constituency matters most. For most businesses, that’s the customer! While for non-profits, there can be more than one constituency (customers/clients, donors, political influencers…) To do this, you must understand your constituents.
2. Decide what business you’re in: For example, what are your core businesses, and which of them will you grow?
3. Balance present and future: Ensure that stakeholders’ near-term interests don’t overshadow your company’s long-term future (pay attention to current trend, but don’t let it overshadow development for the future by not balancing short-term investments with resources needed for your company’s long-term goals.
4. Shape values and standards: Define values and standards in terms that are meaningful by defining your company’s values (its identity) and standards (expectations) in ways that encourage the right behaviors. For example; Proctor and Gamble defines trust as consumers’ trust in its brands.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS INNOVATION …especially during difficult times

In Business Development, Business Strategies on July 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm
Image by vaXzine via Flickr

Far too few businesses have creative, right-brain types in leadership positions. This leaves innovation vulnerable to unwise cost cutting during difficult economic times. Decisions to slash versus retain projects are made by analytical, left-brain leadership who really are not suited for assessing innovations “outside of the box.”

 The fashion industry sets a great example worth emulating:

Every season, successful fashion companies must reinvent their product lines—and thus their brands—or face certain death. They manage this constant challenge by creating unusual partnerships at the top that consist of an imaginative, right-brain creative director and a commercially minded, left-brain brand CEO. ( called “both-brain” teams by Darrell K. Rigby, author of Winning in Turbulance.)*

  • Its businesses are run by pairs of powerful executives with complementary–creative and analytic–styles.
  • Its businesses are structured  to support left-brain-right-brain partnerships. Recruiters for the fashion industry seek to hire a mix of cognitive styles at all levels.  
  • In the fashion industry Innovation is a way of business life, not a marginal activity.

Highly successful both-brain pairs have been found elsewhere: Apple CEO Steve Jobs and COO, Tim Cook, are one such extremely well-known alliance. 

How it works:

Traditional, left-brain-dominant business leaders typically can’t tell the difference between good and bad innovations. Nor do they appreciate the skills needed to build and sustain a culture of creativity and constant reinvention. A leadership duo that unites right-brain creative skills and left-brain management skills offers the best way of ingraining innovation in a business, making it valued in all economic climates. 

But there’s more to the formula than throwing two people together. What makes for a superlative “both-brain” team? In many ways such a partnership is “truly like a marriage,” says Gucci Group CEO, Robert Polet. “It has ups and downs, and you have disagreements, [but] with a common purpose and within a common framework.”

Rigby studied a number of creative-commercial partnerships, both successful and unsuccessful, and identified seven characteristics that were common to success:

  1. Awareness of strengths and weaknesses. Partners realistically assess what they do well and where they need help. They often joke openly about their own shortcomings to help others see the value of partnership.
  2. Complementary cognitive skills. Partners seek those who balance their own working styles and decision-making approaches. They learn to draw on each other’s capabilities to the proper degree and at the right times.
  3. Trust. Partners trust each other and are willing to put each other’s interests ahead of their own.
  4. Raw intelligence. Partners bring insightful observations and good judgment to the team’s decisions.
  5. Relevant knowledge. Partners bring experience that applies directly to the challenges they face.
  6. Strong communication channels. Partners speak to each other frequently and directly. They often work in the same or adjacent spaces.
  7. Motivation. Partners are highly committed to the success of the business and to each other.

*Source:  Innovation in turbulent times Harvard Business Review 06/01/09 by Darrell K. Rigby, Kara Gruver, and James Allen

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The 7 Best Tools Used by Top Social Networking Sites

In Business Development, Communications, Social Media on July 7, 2009 at 6:02 am
LOGO2.0 part I
Image by Stabilo Boss via Flickr

Following are some great features that the top Social Networking (SN) sites currently use to stay on top:


1.) Ajax based tag suggestions –

This is where when you start typing something into an input box, a little drop down window immediately appears which basically shows some suggested tags which it pulls from its database of existing tags as you type each letter. The more you type, the more accurate the suggested tags get. uses this feature. The reason the feature is so useful is that most SN sites use tagging but very few offer tag suggestions. example, if I’m posting an article about “Web design”, I might add the following tags: webdesign, Web design, website, websites, web-design, Web development….Anyway, you get the point!

Fluther suggestions help eliminate the guess work over whether you’re using the best tags, over-tagging or  under-tagging to ensure search engine optimization.

2.) Get users to promote for you –
StumbleUpon is an Internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos. It is a personalized recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles. Web pages are presented when the user clicks the “Stumble!” button on the browser toolbar.

 StumbleUpon chooses which Web page to display based on the user’s ratings of previous pages, ratings by his/her friends, and by the ratings of users with similar interests. Users can rate or choose not to rate any Web page with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and clicking the Stumble button resembles “channel-surfing” the Web.

Install the Stumbleupon toolbar and start stumbling!”

3.) Sell limited positions as category sponsors to marketers –
This is a way that sites can monetize traffic. It’s a tactic that it provides a service to site users by providing ‘validated’ listings as well as makes the continuation of site services more viable.  

It is a derivative of the user-generated/rated content movement that’s relevant enough and provides enough of a service to keep it as a resource. Think of it in the same vein as Ebay’s sponsored listings or any other form of marketing – Successful Ebay vendoers (meaning those who are doing the right thing to remain successful) can afford to pay for advertising so, theoretically, this moderately ‘validates’ them.  It does, however, also provide an avenue for spammers.

4.) Force “legitimate” friendships –
Let’s face it – none of us have 500+ real friends!  MySpace is notorious for “friend” abuse. My niece has a bazillion “friends” on MySpace!  In principle, I suppose one can understand the ideal, but the reality is that it waters down the value of the community  

Stumbleupon allows 200 friends, max. In order to become friends with someone, you first must find another user and add them as your friend.  But before you actually become their friend, you’re added as a “fan” of theirs….basically you become a groupie… until they confirm you as their friend. At that point you become “mutual friends.” Stumbleupon allows you to have unlimited fans but, as an individual, you cannot have more than a combined total of 200 “mutual friends” and you are a fan of. This forces you to be selective.  In the Stumbleupon community, it’s considered better to have more “mutual friends” than people you are a fan of.

LinkedIn guards against “friend” abusers to an even greater extent. Their friend system is very tight. You can’t send a message to someone or request they become friends with you unless you actually know them & have their e-mail address or someone can facilitate an introduction.  But it’s still up to the individual to respond and accept/deny the “friend” request.

5.) True integration with other web services –
Facebook’s new application platform has raised the bar – way up. Facebook’s popularity is growing at an increasingly greater rate than MySpace. 

There is a library of, literally, hundreds of unique applications available that integrate with Facebook.  My Facebook page is set up to automatically post my blogs and tweets to my profile.  They show up in my newsfeed as well as in all of my friend’s news feed pages. It’s quite effective.

6.) Allow filtering content through friends –
Digg is, technically, a “Social News” site, there are, however, some features that are important. Digg actually has a reputation for being run by a handful of people who all dig each other’s stuff exclusively! This doesn’t mean that Digg’s ‘friend’ system isn’t useful. What seems to be the best approach on Digg in order to get fresh content that’s filtered more specifically for an individual’s interests is this:

  1. find an article that appeals to you;
  2. look at the profile of the person who submitted it
  3. then look at the articles they have submitted in the past.
  4. If they appeal to you, ‘friend’ them. 

What will happen next is that when you’re looged in and on any category page on Digg, you’ll see a link to view that “Friend’s activity in the last 48 hrs.”  If you’ve “friended” the right folks, you’ll discover a pretty specialized list of information and posts.

7.) Have a visually appealing website
I’m talking professional grade and geared for socializing. Pay attention to detail, but keep the design simple & fresh. Concentrate on usability if your goal is to out survive the competition.  

Allowing users control over their profile’s appearance is a great idea as long as it’s done properly. I’d advocate for less control than MySpace but more than Facebook. If you use embedded videos & music on your site, remember not to set the audio player default to auto play.

Have you discovered more tools that you like?  Please share by adding your comments.

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