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FaceSpace? MyLinkedIn?

In the first post of the social media series, we covered what social media is, and why you need to pay attention to it by listening to what other people are saying. Now that you've heard part of the conversation, become a part of the conversation! There are several ways to become involved in social media. With so many different sites, how do you know which ones to choose?

This article will focus on the websites that allow you to interact on a deeper level with your online network. You've probably heard of many of these sites - Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. How can each site help your company, and how can you utilize these tools to maximize their usefulness?

Facebook was founded in early 2004 and currently has over 200 million users worldwide. While it was originally limited to college students, Facebook quickly opened its doors to high schoolers, then the general public. It has now expanded to include company listings as well. Who is on Facebook? Everyone and their mother (and, in my case, my father, my aunts and uncles, my 78-year old grandfather...). It is a great way to find old friends, network with colleagues, and even keep tabs on what your clients are up to. Consider starting or joining a group dedicated to the bail industry, and create a "Fan Page" for your company. Your fan page can be used to reach out to other business people in your area, as well as allow clients, friends and others to stay up to date on what's going on with your business. Fan pages allow clients and friends to interact with each other and share pictures, videos, stories and other positive experiences about your company.

MySpace, which also launched in 2004, has recently experienced a decline in popularity. Does this mean you should ignore it? Of course not. While Facebook is outranking MySpace in popularity, MySpace still gets over 70 million users a month. Still a popular hotspot for musical and other entertainment acts, MySpace will continue to attract milions of users. One reason for using MySpace in addition to Facebook is the ability to create a more customized page on MySpace. Just be careful that you don't let the design of your page overpower your message. In addition, MySpace users tend to be more open than Facebook users with privacy settings, making it easier to view and keep tabs on current clients and potentially find new clients.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site that was founded in 2003 yet took awhile to grow in popularity. It takes out a lot of the personal aspect of Facebook and MySpace (the ability to post pictures, videos and the like) and replaces it with an opportunity to post your resume and network online with offline contacts. LinkedIn has another benefit that FaceBook or MySpace doesn't - the professional groups. These groups allow you to meet other bail industry professionals and share your expertise over specific, industry related topics. Though people may not be turning to LinkedIn to find a bail agent to bail them out of jail, you can use this medium to establish yourself as an industry expert and network with attorneys and other legal professionals.

Ning is essentially an Internet site that allows someone to create their own social network focused on a certain topic. A great example of this is the Bail Bonds Community created for bail professionals. Like the other sites, you can create a profile, become friends with other professionals, share pictures and video, submit blog posts and participate in discussions. While other communities are open to everyone, Ning groups are targeted to a specific demographic. It combines the specific industry focus of LinkedIn groups with the personalization and networking aspect of MySpace.

While you do not have to be involved in all these social media networks, they all allow you to mutually befriend internet connections and learn more about people while sharing more about yourself. If used appropriately, these outlets can connect you with a greater number of people than you'd be able to connect with on a daily basis. To get started on these different sites, simply sign up for a free account, then follow the instructions. The most important part about using these sites is not being afraid to try new things - they're free, and you can always change them! Once you have created your profile, you can invite people to "friend" you via email and start your social network.

Be sure your online profile pages reflect the professionalism you expect for your company. If you have a personal MySpace page, consider getting a separate one to promote your company. I actually have two Facebook pages - one for my friends and family and one for professional contacts. While updating two pages may seem like a pain sometimes, there are some things that are meant for friends to see that are not appropriate for business colleagues or potential clients. Use your best judgment when sharing personal things such as religion or political views with professional contacts. As a general rule of thumb, if you're not sure if something is appropriate or you would be upset if someone posted a counter argument or point of view, it probably is not something you should display to professional contacts.

Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are just three of the many sites you can be involved with on Web 2.0. The next part of this feature will highlight a few more sites where you can engage colleagues and clients online.

Be a fan of Collateral Mag on Facebook.
Be a fan of on Facebook.
Find AboutBail on MySpace.
Visit the Bail Professionals LinkedIn Group.
Join the Bail Bond Agents Ning Group

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