In the talk I gave yesterday on Social Media for Small Business, I wanted to summarise what I think is current best practice in the use of social media. I was talking specifically about blogging, micro-blogging, and networking using LinkedIn.
As is often the case, it comes down to making deliberate choices about doing one thing rather than another.
The majority of the people in the audience yesterday have a LinkedIn account, and had put their profile together. But only a few had then become ACTIVE users of LinkedIn. They aren’t using the site to find new contacts and engage them in discussion; or watch companies who are competitors or potential clients to see who joins and leaves; or share their expertise by answering questions about their subject area.
I often imagine an online activity happening in the real world, to see what sense it makes. Being on LinkedIn or any other social network and not being an ACTIVE user is like going to a cocktail party, standing against a wall and not starting a conversation with anyone. I guarantee you’d have an unenjoyable evening if that’s what you did, and I also guarantee that you’ll think that social networking is not useful in your business if you aren’t an ACTIVE player.
There’s no point in acquiring lots of network contacts or Twitter followers if you can’t do something useful with them. By that, I mean that you will need to INTERACT with them, not just broadcast to them. When we engage with people, trying to find what they’re interested in, we can start to build a relationship with them. Just tweeting about what you did today, and announcing your latest blog post, isn’t going to make your online persona something that people will be interested in connecting with.
Imagine the partygoer who simply shouts loudly into the room about what he’s been doing lately, rather than having useful conversations with individuals and groups – that would be horrible, wouldn’t it?
Having lots of contacts is only useful if you can keep in touch with them, help them to do useful things, and get their help in return. Focus on the QUALITY of your connections and interactions, not the quantity of them.
In the analogous cocktail party, our inept partygoer spends the evening having ‘conversations’ of a few seconds with almost everybody in the room. Afterwards, nobody remembers him or anything that he said.
You’re sure to know the old but still valid chestnuts that ‘people buy from people’ and ‘for someone to be a customer, first they have to know you, then like you, and finally trust you’.
If your online activities only reveal a limited view of you – an impersonal one – it’ll be so much harder for people to get to know you. Don’t be afraid to allow your activities to be PERSONAL, revealing more of what makes you tick. And when you do that, make sure you are as AUTHENTIC online as I’m sure you are in your offline life. False claims and opinions get found out very quickly online and will undermine the reputation you’re trying to build.
In our final visit to the party, our featured partygoer has spent the evening telling people that he is very important in his organisation, trying to give the impression that he has strategic influence. In reality, he’s an intern who’s currently sorting out the stationery in the marketing department.
So, in your use of social media, I encourage you to be active, authentic, and personal. Ensure that your interactions are of high quality.
What would you add to this, as your best practice? Let me know in the comments.