It frustrates me to no end to see nothing but advertising, promotions, real estate listings, and coupons posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms. It frustrates me even more when I see so called “social media experts” doing this. I feel worse for their clients knowing that business owners are being mislead and putting their brand and reputation in jeopardy!
I’ve said it more times than I can count… social networking platforms are NOT advertising tools! For the business owner, these are powerful NETWORKING tools… designed to help build trust, improve reputations, and develop relationships! Imagine going home after a hard day at work… sitting in your favorite chair… grabbing the remote… and tuning in to the 24/7, 365 day a year “commercial channel” (if there were such a channel). Most of us record programs and fast-forward through the commercials, don’t we? So what makes you think that your fans and followers want their social feeds cluttered with ads and promotions?
Now that we know what they’re NOT for, how SHOULD you be using social networking tools? Let’s review some basic principles of networking:
- Networking is about relationships, referrals and reciprocity.
- Building business relationships takes time and WORK.
- Be consistent and show up on a regular basis.
- Look for opportunities to start and participate in conversations.
- It’s more important to be a trusted resource than it is to show up and sell something.
- The more value you provide to someone, the stronger the relationship.
- GIVE TO GET! The best way to get referrals, is to give them first.
Now… let’s apply these to online networking:
- Build your online relationships by starting with your offline connections. Connect ONLINE with your OFFLINE connections. Visit their websites. Look for the social networking icons and “Like” their Facebook pages. “Follow” them on Twitter. Connect with them on “LinkedIn”. Remind them when and where you met and let them know you would like to keep in touch and continue to build the relationship online.
- “Meet, Greet & Share” new connections. When someone “Likes” your Facebook business page or follows you on Twitter, take a look at their profile. Try to learn more about them. Look for a website and go visit it. Do they have a Facebook business page? “Like” it back. Follow them back on Twitter. Find them on other social platforms and connect with them there. Acknowledge them. Welcome them. Thank them. Ask them how they found you. Introduce them to others in your network. Ask them how you can help. Some of the strongest connections I’ve made, started online first and then carried over to offline.
- BE GENUINELY INTERESTED in your online connections. Interact online. “Like” their comments on Facebook. “Share” their Facebook content and links on your page. “Retweet” interesting info and content via Twitter. If applicable, join some of the same LinkedIn groups that they’re a part of. Visit their website/blog and share some of that content through your social networking platforms. GIVE TO GET!
- LISTEN! Has someone asked a question that you have an answer for? Respond! Share an article or piece of content that may be helpful. Give them an answer even if it has nothing to do with your business. Is someone looking for a particular product or service? Make that connection. Refer someone within your network. Don’t have anyone in your network who can help? Start considering filling that gap and find someone… get to know them so the next time the opportunity arises you CAN be helpful and make that connection.
- Take advantage of opportunities to add value, start conversations and participate within groups. Participate in online discussions. This opens up an opportunity for you to build relationships with people who aren’t in your immediate network.
- Develop a routine and be consistent. Successful networkers understand that the only way to get maximum value out of their networking group is to show up and be consistent. Online networking is no different. If your last “Tweet” or Facebook post was last month, it sends the message that you don’t care and you’re not taking your efforts seriously. You don’t have to spend hours a day on this. 30 minutes would be sufficient. Fit it into your routine. There are tools out there which can be helpful.
It should be clear that online networking and offline networking aren’t all that different. Stop viewing these tools as advertising and promotional tools. Now, don’t get me wrong… there’s a time and place for advertising and promoting via social networking tools. There’s a right and a wrong way. However, all that is secondary to building strong business relationships. Try something different. Start using traditional offline networking skills in the online networking world. Stop looking at that next follower as your next target… your next sale. I can assure you that you’re going to see a big difference. Your number of legitimate followers will increase. Your level of engagement will improve. Your network will grow… and, over time, so will your business.