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.
‘A Tweetup is an event where people on Twitter come together to meet in person.’
Or also known as a ‘Twitter Meetup’.
These events are rapidly becoming commonplace as more and more people are using Twitter. They are a great way to connect in person with someone you have built a relationship with on Twitter.
On the whole they are very casual, laid back affairs – often in a bar or pub. They are a great form of free, casual business networking and fantastic opportunity to meet with and strengthen relationships with local Tweeters.
If you are lucky enough to already have a Tweetup group in your local area go along! If not why don’t you be the one to start it up!
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.
This week has seen the roll out of ‘Lists’ by Facebook. This is in response to Google+’s ‘Circles’. What it essentially means is that you can separate your contacts into different lists (they won’t know which one they are in) and then send updates only to certain people. For example you might have Family, Friends and Acquaintances lists. You would update your status with a photo of a family get together to only your Family list, so that people you don’t really know aren’t let in on your personal life. Users can now also ‘subscribe’ to your feed without you having to become friends with them (like Twitter).
This is all part of Facebook, and social networking sites in general, trying to improve user’s privacy. As mentioned in our previous blog: Location-Based Social Networking: Friend or Foe? privacy is an on-going issue for social networking sites and they know they need to make their users feel comfortable with the information they are sharing if they are going to continue to use them.
However, that said I would still err on the side of caution with anything you post to the web, in any form. Even after deleting posts they can often still be cached and found in the websphere. Assume that, even if you believe you are posting to a private list, that anything you post has the potential to be seen by anyone..
At the moment these changes shouldn’t have a major effect on how organisations use social media to communicate. Facebook has already restricted organisations’ use of it by pushing them to set-up ‘Pages’ rather than as groups or people. This already came with its own restrictions before they brought in yet another change that pages will no longer be able to message ‘likers’ directly from 30th September.
Google+ still doesn’t have a place for organisations to set themselves up and will close down any accounts that are not personal. The only place that seems to, at the moment, be embracing the use of its platform by organisations is Twitter by differentiating itself as an information sharing network rather than a social network.
Maybe it is time for a new social network to take centre stage…
There are a lot of people who think they are ‘doing’ social media by setting themselves up on Twitter and Facebook, adding a few contacts and sharing a few posts, then losing heart because they don’t feel that they are getting anything back.
I would say it takes a good couple of months to grow your network organically and start to build relationships with those people on your network through carefully thought out messages.
Social networking is much like face-to-face networking. It is hard at the start because you don’t know anyone and it all feels a bit uncomfortable, but once you have been a few times you start to build up a network of contacts, who then become customers/suppliers/clients, and your net widens with each visit.
The same principles apply to social or on-line networking. Twitter and Facebook are merely tools that need to be used properly to build up a good quality, reliable network of people that are easy to communicate with and, once trust is built, become customers.
It is all about relationship building. There is no quick fix but with a little time and patience your contacts on Twitter and Facebook could become your most valuable resources.
- 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