Keep a Personal Touch in the Digital World: Social Networking Tips for BusinessesHave you ever had someone in a business relationship tell you they were slammed with work only to find their Facebook page full of frequent frivolous activity?
Or maybe you have been on Twitter and been surprised by a rude, off-the-cuff remark.
Those are a couple of problems to watch out for in the world of social networking etiquette.
Sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook offer boundless potential for companies to promote and build their businesses online. But savvy business people should remember that “social” is just as important as “networking” on these sites and avoid some common pitfalls.
While the new social networking tools are a powerful way to reach a lot of people, what really makes a difference is keeping a personalized touch. That means you need to let the Golden Rule govern your behavior online, and treat people and situations as you would if you were interacting face to face.
It’s a little like that bestselling book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. To be successful with social networking, you have to play well with others. Here are some tips on how to do it:
• Share your goodies — Provide valuable information that people can use. When I am networking online, I offer great content for free, whether it is seminars, newsletters or even articles that I find that would be interesting for the community.
• Take interest in others — Engage with people online just as you would if you were building a business relationship in person. If someone comes in and all they want to do is promote, promote, promote, that approach is likely to go nowhere.
• Be polite — People have a tendency to say things online they would not say face to face. I have seen instances where people on Twitter have a personal beef or a problem with a person and tweet it out publicly. Avoid that pitfall, and don’t say anything you would be embarrassed for your loved ones to read.
• Don’t lower yourself — With electronic communication, whether email or social networking, there is no way to read facial expressions or body language. Often, if there is a question about a person’s intentions, it is best to give them the benefit of the doubt or just let it go, rather than calling them out as being rude.
• Take responsibility — Be responsible, not only for what you say, but for your time and your image. It will hurt your credibility if you tell people how busy you are and they see you taking those "Who am I?" and "5 Favorite" quizzes on Facebook every day. When you are online, you should assume everyone is watching you, and behave accordingly.
• Make sure everyone is included — If you are participating in an online discussion, let other people have a chance to share their ideas and perspectives. Sometimes that means waiting your turn. No need to butt in. You will get your chance.
• Have fun and be creative — Think of ways you can share information about your product, your business or yourself that are fun and make people want to follow you.
These tips work because social networking is all about building community. Just like the community you live in offline, the people who have credibility online who are those who engage others and provide value for the community.