Over the past couple of years social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube have grown to be a valuable part of business online marketing. It has also become a key element in helping many website owners in their search engine optimization (SEO).
Many business owners have discovered that social networking is great for:
- Promoting sales, coupons, discounts, events, and contests
- Showing off professional portfolios
- Gaining of industry knowledge
- Direct insight of customer opinions
- And much more.
However, many business owners fail to incorporate the sole purpose of these online services…being social.
Even I must admit that it can be extremely difficult to maintain all the many online accounts that I have created. It isn’t easy taking time out of a busy day to tweet just that, log on to Facebook to mention how great the speaker you just saw at the convention was, or read posts on one of the networking groups you’re joined.
Many business owners are afraid to speak to those that they do not directly or personally know, so they say nothing except to post information about their business or share online articles that they recommend. To successfully use these services, however, being social with those you are connected to is extremely important. Just as banners and small paid advertisements are no longer as effective as they once were, your marketing and presence on these sites will eventually fall on deaf ears.
Each social networking site has its own set of rules I highly recommend that you look into when it comes to being social. However, there are a few basic rules that can apply to all of them.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin. I will have to admit that I am such a technology and Internet junkie that sometimes I have found myself being spread out way too thin. It’s not always that I don’t have time to do things, but more like I have obligated myself to do so much that there isn’t enough time to do them. You might think that this has absolutely nothing to do with being social online, but if you don’t have time to send a tweet or update your Facebook status then you don’t have the time to be social. This defeats the whole purpose of joining any social networking site. No one says that you have to join every social networking site now. Try just joining one or two at a time until you can manage your time more wisely. Doing so will allow you a lot more time to log on, learn about the service, and take part of their many advantages like finding new colleagues, new friends, and new customers.
- Follow and request friends. You would be surprised at how many people will accept your requests or follow you back. Especially if they are within the same industry as you or have mutual online friends. For example, if you have a Twitter account try following people that not only are following you but are also following them. On Facebook try liking a page and requesting to be friends with those who also like that same page.
- Update your status often. Let those you’re connected with know you’re not a spam account or just in for promoting your business. This is extremely important when it comes to Twitter. You will lose followers quickly if all they see you doing every day, all day is ReTweeting others and promoting your music or coupons. It isn’t a bad I idea at all to occasionally mention that you had a great meeting with a new client or how you enjoyed your lunch at the new restaurant around the corner from your office. To many these things tend to seem so irrelevant, but they are an important part of being social. And in these days and times everyone has a mobile phone. Even more so, many have mobile phones with internet and social networking access. Use these applications to your advantage.
- Participate in conversations. Don’t be afraid to make a comment on a group post or reply to a follower’s tweet that needs encouragement before they go to their big interview. Try subscribing to blogs of interests, they don’t have to be in your industry, and occasionally make a reply to a post you like. As long as you don’t offend others, there is absolutely nothing wrong in voicing your opinions and giving encouragement.
- Ask questions. This is one aspect that business owners avoid doing, but can be helpful to them in the long run. I have found that small and home-based business owners find this very hard to do. I have been told that they feel if they ask a question related to their industry makes them seem unknowledgeable to prospective customers or clients. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. No matter how much you know in your industry things are always changing and you will always be learning. Once you begin asking questions you will be amazed at how others might in turn begin to ask you as well, thus creating a great social conversation.
- Remain professional. Although you will find yourself at some point having “close” online friends, you must always remember to keep things professional. I don’t think I have to remind you about being rude to others or using defamatory content. We are all adults and those things are a given and if they are not then they should be. However, far too many times business owners (and non-business owners) tend to get very comfortable when being social online and forget that their presence and words are NOT private. Making comments about a specific client (whether current or not) is in no way a great idea. This will only make prospective clients wonder how you will treat them. I wouldn’t even advise you to send this information via your inbox messaging or direct messages. You never ever know who they might know.
Just using these simple tips should help you to get started in being social in the world of social networking. One last and very important note: Make sure you are joining the social networking sites that are right for your business and its industry. Nothing could be more damaging than to join a site that has absolutely no benefit to you in the long run.