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One of the latest marketing trends is via social networking sites and it is a very effective strategy. Marketing your products and services in this way can be extremely profitable -- but you have to get it right.

I have a lot more to say about marketing on social networking sites, but to give you a head start; here is a rundown on what you need to get started.

Get involved

Before you can start marketing on a social networking site, you have to have a presence there and get yourself established.  This can be a lot of fun -- not like work at all!  Firstly you have to get yourself a page on one of the following social networking sites:

Once you have established a page, you should add a photo, or at least an avatar, which makes your profile more personal and gives people a sense of who you are -- all the better for making social connections.  Your profile, you can introduce yourself and your business but be careful that you don't come across as an advert!

Connect with other people

Once you have established your page and given some information about yourself and your business interests, you can start connecting to others.

The first way to do this is to allow the networking site to go through your e-mail list and find people who have also set up a page on the site.  You can decide if you want to set up a link with that person.

You can join specific interest groups on the site.  Try to make sure that they are relevant to your business interests if you want to make your marketing effective.

You can also put an announcement on your website with your social network link and an invitation for people to join you there.  This is becoming quite common now on many websites -- look out for ‘Follow us on Twitter’ and so on.  You can do exactly the same on your site.

Just these few techniques alone are quick and easy and should create plenty of connections.  It seems ludicrously easy to make new social contacts on the sites!

You will be able to link to people you already know via your e-mail list and the site announcement will give people the option of being part of your list.  By joining groups you are spreading your message even further.

Hooking up to relevant lists of people

Shortly you will have access to an amazing array of techniques to market your business on social networking sites, but to give you a taste of what is to come, try the following method of identifying lists of people who may be interested in what you have to offer:

People who have expressed an interest in a particular subject within their social networking profile can actually be found via a search engine query.  Many of them have not even joined a group and would not be found by any other method.  All you have to do is write the correct search engine query.  For example, try the following queries into Yahoo or Google and see what comes up: inurl:in 'fishing' inurl:profile inurl:bebo 'gardening' 'scuba diving' 'led zeppelin' '@gmail' inurl:status 'video games' inurl:myspace inurl:fuseaction 'hiking'

Exciting isn't it? Now have a play around with some of your own ideas!

Making contact

Once you have found people with relevant interests, you have to approach them without looking like you are presenting a marketing pitch.  These people have not agreed for you to approach them and you need to tread very carefully or you could be accused of spamming! There is definitely an art to pitching successfully in a social media campaign.

It can be quite tricky, but approached in the right way can be hugely effective and a great way to build your list of loyal customers.

You can use all the tools available to leverage your marketing, including blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, video, photo sharing and a whole lot more. It’s also possible to accurately measure your success using specific tools and techniques.

Social media marketing is seriously allowing entrepreneurs to become wealthy and you are missing out if you don’t give it a go. Once you know the techniques and strategies, it’s easy to tap into the Social Web and get your piece of the action- and now is the time!

More to come...