by Suzanne Duval d'Adrian
Social Media: Invaluable and yet still a great mystery to so many. For some, it’s a matter of just jumping in with both feet and navigating the waters from there. Others will take a more cautious approach. Either way, learning the basics of the social media jungle and implementing some simple tips is key to harness its power professionally.
If you’d asked me a few months ago whether or not I tweet, I’d have laughed and said enthusiastically, “No way!” Like everyone, I was on Facebook keeping up with friends and family, posting pictures and cracking (what were to me, quite obviously hysterical) jokes. I had a LinkedIn profile too — my resume was pasted up just as it should be. The photo had been taken out with friends one night and while slightly fuzzy, it wasn’t too bad and you could make out what I looked like.
I thought I had it all covered.
An interest in using social media for business led me to “Be Social,” a mid-April event hosted by the St. Louis IABC chapter. That’s where I realized that not only was there room for improvement in what I was already doing but that using social media professionally could really pay off.
Each of the three main networks is different. In a nutshell:
Facebook is the social media version of Cheers — everyone knows your name and they’ve probably seen you tagged in some semi-embarrassing pictures from 20 years ago. Using it for business is the same. Like-minded people and groups get to know your business and they get a sense of your corporate culture and values. The key is to relax, have fun with it and show your real self. That will form deeper and longer-lasting relationships with your friends and people who ‘like’ your page.
Twitter is a constant stream of chatter punctuated by the @ and # symbols. It can be difficult to decipher the quirky language. Limiting yourself to 140-characters poses a challenge for someone who’s long-winded and likes to insert links and tag people. The relationships that come from these conversations are invaluable because of the rapid interaction. By using tags properly, Twitter can also put you in front of people you wouldn’t ordinarily have a chance to talk to.
LinkedIn is the go-to social networking site for business. You showcase your professional self and a photo, offer information about your business and hubbub with co-workers and peers. By participating in group discussions, keeping your information current and making smart connections, you can reap huge benefits.
Here are some takeaways from the workshop and some of the things I’ve learned along the way:
- Remember your audience for each social media outlet. What you post on Facebook and Twitter probably isn’t right for LinkedIn. You wouldn’t want to see party pics at your next meeting with a potential client or employer, would you? Avoid connecting accounts with the cross-posting options and double check what you’re posting where.
- Be consistent. Being active on social networks involves a time commitment. Posting five links and comments one day, then disappearing for two weeks won’t cut it. Any good relationship needs nurturing and participation is key especially when you’re using sites to promote your business, form new connections and build relationships.
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Stay aware that content and comments you put out there will forever be associated with either you or your organization. They’re searchable and provide people (and your potential clients as the case may be) with a clear picture of who you are and what’s important to you.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
- Manage, manage, manage. To save time and potential frustration, look into an aggregation program — I can tell you from experience that it makes a huge difference. No need to have twenty browser tabs open anymore and wonder why your internet connection is so slow when there are great options like Tweetdeck, Seesmic and Hootsuite. Posts and updates from all major platforms can be displayed and managed into one central application and it makes life oh-so-much simpler. We use Hootsuite and Safari thanks me for it every day.
- Be smart about your connections on LinkedIn. Don’t say yes to just anyone. Always ask, “Does it make sense to connect with this person?” Keep in mind that if they ask for an introduction to another connection down the road, you could find yourself in the position of essentially vouching for someone you don’t know all too well. Your credibility might be damaged if things don’t go well between the two, not to mention the time it will take to write all those apology letters.
- No fuzzy photos on LinkedIn! Make sure that the ‘professional’ picture you choose is just that — professional. It shouldn’t be out of focus, show multiple people or come from last weekend’s outing with friends. Keeping it appropriate will not only showcase your fantastic smile but also help you maintain credibility among your peers, colleagues and potential clients and employers.
- Don’t pat yourself on the back too much. The general rule for using social media professionally is 80/20. 80% of what you post up should be directed at things your audience is interested in and 20% is focused on you and your business. Ever heard the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive?” Let people get to know you
- Most of all — be social!
Every day we learn more about our community, our peers and people and companies we’d like to work with through social media. While keeping up with all of the networks requires ongoing effort, it’s well worth it.