My answer to How would you market a small business?
Answer by Ken Larson:
Personal, professional and business branding is occurring regularly, whether or not we are aware of it.
From our web site presence to our postings on the sites of others, from our credit ratings to our cell phone records and application navigation, we are tracking others and being tracked ourselves.
Deciding to become active in social networking is really a matter of managing personal, professional and business images/brands or having them manage us.
THE INTEGRATED SOCIAL NETWORK
Networking is a vital tool in achieving an image/brand. Establish a network like a wheel. The hub is core content (web site, blog, books, articles, useful materials). The spokes leading from the hub are the tools to network content that is linked to the hub.
Contacts are the engines that power the wheel.
Content is the fuel that feeds the social networking contacts and powers the wheel.
As the wheel turns, the quality of the networking improves with feedback and the wheel climbs the optimization hill of the major search engines (SEO).
Limiting factors are the quality of the core content and knowledge/persistence in networking.
CONTRIBUTE TO OTHERS
Blog, post and contribute to Q&A features on several sites:
1. It allows insight in solving the difficulties of others; always a satisfying achievement, dovetailing with professional endeavors and creating a positive image.
2. The manner in which a response is worded conveys values, expression, opinion, and insight to others who may wish to team, counter with a disagreement or pass on a reference to others; all healthy forms of communication.
3. Ratings features allow evaluation of responses by a large peer group.
4. With the growth of social networking international participation increasing dramatically, it provides insights into perspectives from other nations and cultures; a valuable input in the wired global economy these days.
5. The historical record of questions and answers, posting content and feedback is searched regularly by a large, world-wide community and draws others to profiles and web sites long after the initial dialogue has occurred.
MAKE PRUDENT JUDGEMENTS
Evaluate other net-workers for consistency. Value the participants who realize these are huge and open forums and who keep an open mind to input.
Do not value narrow minded use of these features for exclusively personal or business gain, control freak attitudes, and those who delete replies or answers because they disagree with the responses they are getting or are not getting what they perceive to be desirable results.
THE END PRODUCT:
A brand, an image and valued content, carefully cultivated, exchanged and viewed regularly with others and communicated for success.
Please see the below link for an example of how the above principles are applied.