Becoming a part of the community
Remember high school? If not, look through your old yearbook. That yearbook was the paper version of a Social Network. Your friends signed it at the end of the year. All of the major school events and clubs were included. And of course, there were the Most Likely To Succeed type sections. Now take a closer look. Does your picture show up in that yearbook numerous times? Were you voted to be the Most Likely To (fill in the blank)? If you were shy, your picture may not be splattered throughout the yearbook. A school yearbook can be a glimpse into student popularity.
Now take that same mindset and bring it to Online Social Networking. If you want the benefits that social networking can bring to your site, you need to become involved. You need to be a part of the communities that are being generated. And you need to become popular within those communities. And that may not take as much effort or work on your part as it sounds.
In the same way that we analyze keyword phrases to find the niches that can be more easily won, we can become popular in social networks in smaller ways. Rather than being the most popular person on MySpace, be the most popular person in your niche. And that niche might be in a less crowded network than MySpace. Just as there are vertical search engines, and vertical directories, there are places that your area of expertise, interests, or market will fit nicely. The work may be to find those networks. Once you do, join, participate, give freely, and of course, nudge others to visit your site. Gently, now. No hard sells.
Keep in mind that many of these sites don't require a lot of time and effort on your part. In some cases, a day's worth of work, with some interesting content may be enough. In other cases, you may need to check in periodically and participate, but most of these sites won't require intense amounts of time. The key here is utilizing user-generated content (with the user being you) to your advantage. You have the ability to get your name, product, website and link out there for others to find. And you don't even have to beg for it.
Below is a list of some social networking sites that you should visit. Some are broad and general, and others are narrow and focused. They may or may not fit into your niche, but you'll get a feel for the kind of sites that are out there, enabling you to see how you might be able to "fit in". After you've looked through these sites, start paying attention to sites like TechCrunch.com and emilychang.com. You'll likely find many more communities that you can participate in.
This list could be pages and pages long, and still be very incomplete. The point is to guide you towards what is out there, so that you can find what might be useful to you. Oh, and one last note for today's post...even if you don't put a lot of work into this, and you don't become popular, and you don't get massive traffic, you will likely at least acquire a backlink (which may or may not end up being a quality link, but hey, you never know).