Jason Alba is the guy to ask. The Salt Lake City entrepreneur became an overnight expert on professional social networking when he lost his job. Laid off in January 2006, the former corporate general manager had an M.B.A. in his pocket and a lot of skills; he thought he'd find a job overnight. He was wrong. "I couldn't even strong-arm my way into an interview," he says.
So five months later, he launched JibberJobber.com, a site on which job seekers can manage their searches. To promote his site, he started using LinkedIn, but he got little out of it. Curious, and looking for a way to piggyback on the buzz LinkedIn was getting, he wrote a book called I'm on LinkedIn: Now What? Alba quickly followed that book with I'm on Facebook: Now What?
Magic. Not surprisingly, Alba has devised strategies for publicizing your business through social networking. On both LinkedIn and Facebook, he says, expand your network. You need at least 65 connections to make magic happen. On LinkedIn, ask questions. Every time you pose a query, Alba says, you're getting your name and your expertise in front of your connections and their networks as well.
Make sure, however, that your questions are thoughtful. "The dumbest question that I remember asking was 'How can I sell more books on Amazon?' " Alba recalls. "That question would have easily been flagged as spam. You have to be careful not to cross the netiquette line and make a sales pitch." Better was his query seeking input into a new JibberJobber feature. "I got input, but I was also preannouncing that feature," he says.
Finally, answer good questions. When your connections log in to LinkedIn, they'll see on their home page that you've answered a certain question. In this way, Alba advises, you're branding yourself and exposing your expertise to like-minded people.
On Facebook, get involved in a group related to your profession. Make comments, point to your blog posts—provide value. If you're really ambitious, Alba says, develop a small Facebook application that relates to your offerings. (That's how Lending Club, a person-to-person lending site with thousands of users, got its start.)
Finally, Alba tweets. No, that's not a euphemism—it's a new verb coined for the 140-character "microblogs" that users post on Twitter. As Alba talks to a reporter, he types into Twitter, "I'm getting interviewed for a magazine article."
While to some these tiny posts seem like noise, Alba says they're actually valuable not only for exposure but for news. "When the Minneapolis bridge collapsed, there was a huge Twitter storm, because you can tweet from your cellphone," he says. Less momentous but useful to Alba, his 373 followers—people who have chosen to watch Alba's comings and goings—now know that he's talking with a journalist.
Better yet, Alba uses Twitter to attract new readers to his blog: "Every time I post to my blog, I put the headline up on Twitter. It goes to 373 people who aren't reading my blog, and they'll click on that headline."
The result? Alba won't say how many registrants JibberJobber has or disclose the company's revenues. But he has received numerous requests for speaking engagements, his books are selling, and 500 people read his blog every day.
It's one heck of a lot better than being on the unemployment line.