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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 27, 2009 • Issue 09:04:02

Work that net:
The ABCs of online social networking

Fishermen toss them into the sea. Tennis players navigate them with volleys and drop shots. But in the 21st century, "net" has taken on new meaning, and for many, working the net means using social networking Web sites to market themselves and conduct business. But consider how common the following scenario is: One day you receive an invitation from a colleague to sign up on LinkedIn or Facebook. You say, why not? It's pretty easy to establish a user name and password, and a couple of clicks later you've created your basic profile. You nose around a while, join a couple of discussion groups perhaps and read what other people have written. And then ...?

Eleven ways to love Linkedin

In 2007, Web guru and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki wrote in his blog that LinkedIn was underutilized. He offered 11 ways to increase the value of LinkedIn as a networking and business-generating tool. They are condensed as follows:

1. Increase visibility
The more connections you have, the greater the likelihood people will view your profile when they want to fill open positions or are looking for new business partners.

2. Improve connectability
Most new users put only their current companies in their profiles and therefore severely limit their ability to connect with people. Fill out profiles as though they are executive bios, including past employment, educational background, significant affiliations and personal activities.

3. Improve Google PageRank
LinkedIn makes profile information available for search engines to index. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high page ranking in Google, this is a good way to influence what people see when they search for you online.

4. Enhance search engine results
Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publicize Web sites on Google and Yahoo, giving you instant search-engine optimization. You can choose from preselected categories like "My Website" and "My Company." By selecting "Other" you can modify a link's name.

5. Perform blind, "reverse" and company reference checks
Through LinkedIn's reference check tool, headhunters can input company names and the years during which job candidates of interest worked at those companies. Searches can find other people who worked at the companies during the same time periods. Since references provided by prospective employees are generally glowing, this is a good way to get more balanced information.

Also, this feature enables job seekers to check references for managers at companies they may join, as well as get information about the companies themselves.

Additionally, if you plan to interview for a position, you can search for individuals who previously held the position you are seeking. Do this by searching for the job title and company, but be sure to uncheck "Current titles only."

6. Increase relevancy of job search
You can also use LinkedIn's advanced search to find out where people with educational and work backgrounds similar to yours work today.

7. Make interviews go smoother
LinkedIn enables you to find profiles of people you have interviews set up with and find out what you might have in common. Mentioning that you went to the same college or share a passion for sports, for example, is better than an awkward silence after introductions are made.

8. Gauge the health of a company
You can perform an advanced search for company name (uncheck the "Current Companies Only" box) to scrutinize the rate of employee turnover and find out whether key people are quitting. Former employees usually give more candid opinions about a company's soundness than someone still employed there.

9. Gauge the health of an industry
If you're thinking of investing or working in a particular sector, you can use LinkedIn to find people who are working or have worked for companies competing (or companies that failed) in that sector.

10. Track startups
You can see entrepreneurs in your network who run their own companies. Do this through an advanced search for a range of keywords such as "stealth" or "new start-up." Apply the "Sort By" filter to "Degrees away from you" to see the people in your network who are closest to you first.

11. Ask for advice
LinkedIn Answers enables you to ask business-related questions to both your personal network and the greater LinkedIn network. The premise is that you will get more high-value responses from people in your network - or from industry professionals in the wider network - than from more general forums.

Note: Kawasaki's blog is excerpted by permission of the author. For further information, go to jobs.alltop.com or http://career.alltop.com.

Link on in

Following are several LinkedIn groups that pertain to the payments industry:

  • Cards Payment Processing Industry Forum
  • Merchant Acquirers
  • Merchant Services - Payment cards industry
  • Mobile Payment Association
  • Payment Card Industry Network
  • Payment and Fraud Professionals
  • Merchant Level Sales
  • Merchant Partnerships, Credit Card Processing
  • IT Outsourcing - Payment Card Industry
  • Merchant Services

If you're like many, you forget about your brief dabble in social networking and go back to work. Maybe the whole concept seems like a waste of time. Or you're not that computer savvy, and all the steps and buttons intimidate you. Either way, you fail to take advantage of powerful networking tools that, with a little patience and time, could help you make new contacts and generate referrals - not to mention these sites are free.

A number of contributing writers have written on the subject of social networking for this issue of The Green Sheet. This article is meant to help you jump-start your social networking adventure with step-by-step procedures for making some of the most popular sites work for you.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is designed to help business professionals maintain and generate contacts within various business communities. The site has over 35 million users in 170 industries. Following are instructions for maximizing your profile and building your network. The sidebar accompanying this article, "Eleven ways to love LinkedIn" offers further ideas for getting the most from LinkedIn.

Beef up your profile: After you create your basic profile, enhance it. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for others to find you. Additionally, a diversified profile expands potential contacts to businesses and industries that may not be central to - but nevertheless touch - the payments industry. Here's what to do:

The navigation bar on your page is on the left. Click on "Profile." Click on each section with a plus sign to add the corresponding information. It is much like filling out a job application. Sections include:

  • Current employment
  • Past employment
  • Education
  • Web sites
  • Summary

A progress indicator on the right tells you what percentage of your profile is complete. You don't have to complete the profile all at once; you can complete your profile in stages. Once you've filled out this section and received three recommendations from others (you have to contact individuals to ask for recommendations), your profile is considered 100 percent complete, which raises your status on LinkedIn's search engine. For example, when other users type in Joe Smith, the Joe Smiths that have completed profiles appear at the top of the list.

To edit or add to your profile:

  • Click on the profile link to the right when you return to your page.
  • Click on "Edit my profile" at the top middle of the page.
  • Scroll down past the blue-highlighted box to the detailed list of education and experience fields, and click on the appropriate "Edit" link there.

Grow your network: LinkedIn allows you to import your e-mail contacts.

Once they are imported, you'll see an "In" icon next to contacts who are already on LinkedIn.

  • Click on the boxes beside the names you want to contact (the text box on the right will fill up with the selected contacts).
  • Add personal notes to invitations by clicking the "Add a personal note to your invitation" box.
  • Click the blue button, and you're done.

LinkedIn will send your contacts e-mail messages that include your invitation.

Facebook

Facebook began as a localized college campus social networking site in 2004. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg recently stated the site had reached 200 million users worldwide. To start your Facebook profile, fill out the "Basic information" section right away to keep default settings (which could contain misleading information about you) from creeping into your profile. To change or add to your profile at a later time, click on "Edit my profile."

Add friends: Building your network on Facebook is easy. First, import to Facebook the addresses from your e-mail program's address book. On the tool bar across the top:

  • Hit find friends and enter your e-mail address in the box.
  • On the e-mail sign-in page, accept the agreement for Facebook to use the information for the purpose of finding contacts only.
  • On the next screen showing your contacts who are already on Facebook, click the boxes next to the contacts you'd like to add to your network.
  • Hit "Add as friends."

You can also add friends who are not on Facebook. The default setting selects all your non-Facebook contacts. But it is not advisable to send a "join" message to all your contacts since many of them may be more business acquaintances rather than friends.

To avoid this problem, either uncheck the box at the top that says "Select all," and then check the boxes next to the contacts you want to invite, or just leave "Select all" checked, and uncheck the boxes next to the contacts you don't want to invite. When you are done, click "Invite to join." Alternatively, you can avoid this step by clicking "Skip."

Search groups: Joining groups on Facebook is another way to increase your exposure, talk shop with colleagues and generate contacts. To find groups:

  • Type in "Groups" in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of your page.
  • Click on "Add more filters" to refine your search (by type or group category).

Status: Like LinkedIn, Facebook allows you to tell everyone in your network what you're up to.

On your profile page, choose what you want your status updates to include. The status feed can contain:

  • When you join a group
  • When you become friends with someone
  • When you upload photos, video or links

If you want to join many groups or add numerous links, you might want to do one a day to keep your name sprinkled on your friends' pages more often rather than just inundating them all at once. If you're not careful, and they have their view preferences set to show their friends' activities, you may be hogging space on their status feed sections, thereby turning those friends into enemies.

MySpace

MySpace was launched in 2003. By September 2006, it had surpassed 100 million user accounts. Although the site has gained a reputation as catering to teenagers and "wannabe" celebrities, its slideshow feature can be used as an effective - and free - marketing tool targeting a young demographic.

Create a slideshow: Here's how to create a slideshow. After you log in to your MySpace account:

  • Click "Profile."
  • Go to "My profile"
  • Click "Profile" again.
  • Go to "My photos."
  • In the photo section, click the "Upload photos" icon at the top left of the page.
  • To upload photos, click the "Here" icon on the top right of the page
  • Click "Browse."

Go to the area of your computer where your photos are stored, and double-click on the photo you want to upload. Browse and repeat the double-click function until all pictures you wish to upload are done. When you are finished transferring pictures to photo upload, hit "Next."

The "Next" box defaults to a two-bar screen providing a default name "My photos" with a blank box below. Click the button to the left of the box to rename your file. When you are done:

  • Hit "OK."
  • Wait for pictures to upload, and hit "Next."

Your pictures will come up on the screen at the left.

You can add captions to the pictures in the boxes to the right of each picture. When you have finished adding captions, hit "Done editing" at the bottom of the page. (Remember, your slideshow should be professional. Be mindful when attempting humor, and consider each picture's potential impact on your business before uploading it. Also, posting inappropriate or copyrighted pictures is not allowed; the penalty is that MySpace will permanently cancel your account.)

Sharing your slideshow: To create a slideshow with your uploaded photos and a link for the slideshow you can send to potential clients, do the following:

  • Hit "Next." The uploaded photos will be displayed on your monitor.
  • Hit "Create slideshow" at the top middle of the screen, just above the photos. A screen will pop up that gives two slideshow options. The first option is to have your slideshow presented in a linear, right-to-left display. The second is to have a rotating slideshow.

To upload your pictures onto your profile page using the second option:

  • Make sure that "All photos" is in the prompt box at the top of the page.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page, and choose to have the pictures show in the same order or at random.
  • Highlight the data code below the pictures, and hit copy (Ctrl+C) on your keyboard.
  • At the top of the page go to "Profile," then "Edit profile."
  • Paste (Ctrl+V) the data code into the big box that says "About me."

To preview your slideshow, click the "Preview profile" button. Your slideshow will appear on your homepage. If you want to edit your captions:

  • Click "Profile."
  • Click "My photos."
  • Click on the photo you want to edit.
  • On the top right of the page, click "Edit photo."
  • Change or add text.
  • Click "Save" right below the text box.
  • Go back to "Profile" > "My profile," and you are back on your homepage.

If you are happy with the slideshow, click "Save changes," hit "Profile" again, scroll to "My profile," and you're done. You have just created your first MySpace marketing slideshow. Later, you can add or delete photos with just a few clicks. Updating takes one to two minutes per picture.

GS Online Forum

Last but not least is our own social networking site, the GS Online Forum, a popular destination for ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) where users share information and advice. Only ISOs and MLSs may join. To set up an account:

  • On The Green Sheet's home page, click "Forums" on the toolbar at the top.
  • On the page that appears, hit "Register" on the toolbar.
  • Click on "The Premier Trade Publication for the Payments Industry."
  • Accept the terms of use agreement at the bottom of the page.
  • Fill out the registration form.

Posting on the forums is easy. The MLS Forum is the most popular one. To ask a question or post a comment, click the "New topic" button.

Then proceed as though you are writing an e-mail. When you are done, hit "Preview" to see how your post will appear. Then hit "Submit" to post it. To comment on a post, hit "Post reply," and follow the same procedure as for posting a question or comment.

Wolf Stiles, The Green Sheet Inc. System Administrator, is upgrading the Forum to add new features and functionality. Stay tuned, and be prepared to cast your net even wider. end of article

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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