One of the ways you can use social media platforms to promote you and your business is for social networking. The most common platforms for this to exist on is Twitter and LinkedIn and, in certain circles, Google +.
Twitter, especially, is very good at enabling micro and small businesses to connect with each other. This is due to its completely open format (anyone can see any tweet at anytime, without even having an account) and also its viral nature.
What online networking can’t get away from though is people’s need to connect in a more personal way, or in a face-to-face situation. Business relationships can be started and strengthened online but there is still no taking away from getting out and meeting those online contacts in real life. Whether it is at a networking meeting that has grown out of the social network, or in a one-to-one meeting.
My experience since I have moved to Norfolk reflects this. I have met other businesses and business professionals who I had already started to follow/communicate with on Twitter before I moved here, and now have strong relationships with. I am in no doubt that by regularly seeing these contacts at business networking meetings and Tweetups, and communicating with them online in-between, that my business relationship with them has been accelerated.
I am a regular attendee of the Fabcom Final Friday networking meetups. At the last meeting I met a new member who I didn’t have a chance to exchange business cards with, but I found and introduced myself to him through LinkedIn and have subsequently already refereed some business to him.
I am also one of the organisers of Norfolk Tweetup. Tweetups happen all over the world as an opportunity for Tweeters to get together and the Norfolk Tweetup is no different. It has now been running for nearly a year and is well attended. I have seen Tweeters strike up an immediate rapport with a fellow local business at these events, that they have never physically met before, but have engaged with on Twitter.
Social media and social networking are now an integral and essential part of any business marketing plan. Like any tools they need to be used properly to achieve the best results and combining online social networking with face-to-face networking is the best way to promote you and your business.
If you would like to learn more about how to use social media to promote you and your business come along to one of my social media workshops.
Branch Out is a free Facebook application that allows users to create a professional profile and network and is, effectively, a direct competitor to LinkedIn.
It launched two years ago but has now reached over 25 million users so is starting to cause interest (still a long way off of LinkedIn’s 150 million users though!).
What Branch Out has over LinkedIn though is access to the 850 million current Facebook users who simply have to accept the application’s permissions to start using it and connecting.
Once the application is installed, setting up a profile is very similar to that on LinkedIn. Then connecting with other users is as simple as going through your own friends list, and friends of friends.
LinkedIn is, undoubtedly, the leader in social networking when it comes to creating a professional network online. However, it can come across as a bit stuffy and old-fashioned. Branch Out, by its association with Facebook and its design, has a much fresher feel and gives young professionals who already connect with acquaintances on Facebook the opportunity to do this in a more structured way.
I would always recommend that people are very careful with their Facebook profiles by operating on the highest level of privacy settings and only accepting friend requests from people they know. I am still shocked by how many Facebook profiles are set-up as businesses and organisations instead of using pages!
Branch Out gives you the opportunity to ‘spring clean’ your Facebook profile by using it to connect with those in your network who are more acquaintances than friends.
Social Media Etiquette, or SMEtiquette as it shall now be known, is as crucial to you/your business being well received as etiquette is in a face-to-face situation.
As with everything, different situations/mediums/platforms carry their own ‘rules’. So here as some around SMEtiquette to keep you in favour with your followers, connections or fans.
Please and Thank You
Yes, social media is on the whole a more relaxed environment to communicate in but that doesn’t mean that rudeness is tolerated. If you are asking for help with a problem, or for something to be shared say ‘please’ and if a follower/fan acts upon your request then thank them!
Sharing content is the life blood of all social media platforms but if you’re only ever sharing your own you will be seen as selfish and potentially lose fans/followers. The recommended ratio is that you share approximately 3 times as much of others’ content as you do your own.
However, only share other content that will add value to your audience and don’t bombard them with what could be seen as SPAM.
The invisible account
There is nothing more frustrating than following/liking and trying to engage with an individual or organisation in social media and receiving no response/information.
If you have a presence on a social media platform then make sure you check it EVERY DAY and respond to any comments/mentions.
We are all people!
The facelessness of social media platforms can often lead to individuals being braver then they would be in a face-to-face situation and saying something spiteful or disparaging. If you don’t like what someone is sharing then unfollow them! It is not okay to respond in a negative way and will only reflect badly on you.
However, if the content is sexist, racist or illegal then do not hesitate in reporting them to the platform owners. Facebook and Twitter are usually very hot in responding to complaints and barring users.
Remember behind every Tweet or Update is a person!
With the emergence of online social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn it has never been easier to connect with people that you would like to do business with – but have they replaced the need to network in real life?
All three of these social networking platforms are very different in the way they function but the one thing they all have in common is that they quickly and easily allow people to connect and communicate with each other.
Just in case you don’t know the story, this online network was set-up in a college to allow students to find, rate and communicate with each other. Its growth and popularity with the public at large has led it to be the biggest online network in the world, currently at over 800 million users and growing. As well as individuals having a presence, brands and businesses can also set-up pages and advertise on this forum. Some would say that the complex and commercial nature of the current Facebook takes it too far away from its roots – a simple to use, online networking database.
In many ways this is a much simpler online network. It is easy to follow and un-follow people and businesses and manage how they show in your feed. It is a fantastic source as a real-time news feed and is growing in popularity every day. The ease with which you can build your own network of like-minded Tweeters within the vastness of Twitter makes it a great place to connect with other business and potential customers online.
This is as close as you can get to professional face-to-face networking online. Personal profiles are based around professional qualifications and work history. This is a great forum for finding, connecting with and getting in touch with acquaintances.
All of these platforms allow you to connect and engage with people you would like to get to know and do business with but they cannot replace face-to face networking, only enhance it.
The need for us to meet and analyse each other in person is still essential to business – after all, people buy people. What these social networking sites allow us to do is continuing to have a dialogue in-between the meetings or start a relationship online that becomes a meeting.
Online social networking and face-to-face networking should work hand in hand to enable you to expand your contact database and communicate well with your existing contacts.
- Melanie on Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work
- Keith Osborn on Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work
- Why you need a Content Strategy to make Social Media work - Social Monkey on Social Media Workshops
- Social Networking - Why Face-to-Face is still important on Norfolk Tweetup
- Melanie on Norfolk Tweetup