By Todd LaRoche (@toddlaroche)
Whether youre just dabbling in social media or if blogging, posting, friending and following are already old hat, your people skills can make or break your social media success. In the boardroom or on discussion boards and social media sites, proper business etiquette can be a key differentiator that delivers a competitive advantage.
As more people use social media to build their careers, promote their business and strengthen their reputation, being mindful of offline social skills and applying them to your online presence can protect your personal and professional brand. If your objective is to use social media to interact and develop relationships, these considerations will help you be a more effective and influential community member.
Enter gracefully. Whether youre joining a discussion group on LinkedIn or following your prospects on Twitter, avoid coming in gangbusters. Take the time to eavesdrop on the conversation before diving right in. Also, while its ok to promote your knowledge, avoid blatantly promoting your company, blog or products unless you have an already established relationship or if the information is relevant to the current conversation. To boost credibility, consider promoting other people, too. Social media is a great tool for engagement, but conversations require two-way participation.
Take time to know your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, measure your audiences interests and provide information that has value. As you get to know your followers, give back to show them youre listening to their contributions. If you read a great blog post, either leave a comment or pass it along using StumbleUpon, Delicious or via a shout out on Twitter.
Inform customers, prospects, colleagues and others about your interests. Use your “about us section or profile to communicate who you are interested in connecting with. A critical mistake many organizations make is putting too much emphasis on their number of followers or friends. While its great to attract lots of eyeballs, attracting your key audience is more likely to yield the business results you want.
Quarreling is not ok. What happens online stays online. Thats why its important to consider your actions and ensure your participation paints you in the most positive light. Its ok to address negative feedback, but dont get into flame wars or use profanity. Criticism should be thoughtful and constructive. When monitoring your own community or reputation, avoid insults and snark and have a strategy for how youll respond to naysayers.
Understand who is following or friending you. Did your mother ever warn you that youd be judged by the company you keep? The same is true of your social circle. Check out the people who want to follow you or be your friend and make sure that they will be a positive influence on your online reputation.
Edit yourself. Too much information (TMI) is never a good thing. Channel your internal editor and avoid over-posting mundane information. Providing some personal details adds dimension to your online persona, but constant griping or sharing that you had pastrami on rye for the third time in a week may cause you to lose followers or irritate those that stick around.
Tell enough about yourself to pique others interest. Are you a thought leader? A member of a particular community or industry? Located in a particular geographic region? Providing enough information lets people know who you are, what interests you have in common and why they should pay attention to what you have to say. Make sure your profile is complete on each of the social networks that you participate in and include a picture to humanize the relationship. After all, social media is supposed to be about social interaction.
Transparency is essential. Companies that demonstrate transparent communication are seen as credible, trustworthy and are more likely to build more meaningful relationships. Disclose your connection to your organization when participating on social platforms, create authentic messages, follow industry guidelines and be sure to get the tone right when communicating with others.
Engaging people requires a personality. The simple truth of social media is that people interact with people, not companies. Its prudent to define your corporate positioning and brand image, but dont forsake the importance of being personable. Be friendly and show the human side of your company.
Online relationships can translate to real world success. By following social etiquette rules regardless of where you operate, youll build better relationships and strengthen your reputation.