Having an online presence is one of the most important things a business can have these days. Without some sort of online fingerprint, a business is just not working in the 21st century. One of the best ways to have this presence is through social networking. There are many social networking sites, but all of them have similarities. There are definite do’s and don’ts that should be followed by a business professional when social networking.
Here are some of the things that you should do as soon as you start your business profile.
- Link up with people who fit your customer/client profile: What this means is to try to connect with people you want to make an impression on. Ask yourself, “Why did I make this online profile?” The answer should be to better connect with new clients and people that associate with your target market. This of course isn’t the only reason and you should also have connections with colleagues and other business professionals, but the bulk of your connections should be with people who may need or be interested in your services.
- Respond to other people’s posts. This is not only nice, but it also lets other business owners and potential clients know that you’re alive and interactive. Making an impression on people will make them remember you. Needless to say, this is a good thing. It is the equivalent of going to an in person networking and socializing with people instead of standing in the corner.
- Be courteous and pleasant. I know that we all have bad days. Sometimes I can be a bit of a grump when things go bad for me, but remember that there is a big difference between offline and online. Sometimes when you have a bad day, you may snap at someone or be less than pleasant to everyone. It is okay, you’re only human. You have the luxury online to be able to read anything before you send it out. This is a great advantage and you have no excuse not to use it. If only we had this ability in real life.
- Give relevant and accurate information about yourself. Sometimes people’s profiles are a little lacking. Think of them as a business card. If someone handed you a business card with only their first name on it and no way to reach them, you would probably not bother to connect with them further. An online presence is the same thing. This doesn’t mean you need to give your home address and private phone number in your profile, but it should contain important information that you want your public to know about your business.
- Provide a photo. A picture says a thousand words. Having a photo of you is an important matter. It says to your public that you are upfront, friendly and have nothing to hide. This isn’t to say that a lack of a photo means your hiding something or unfriendly, but the general public may think so. Having a picture of you also demonstrates confidence in yourself which is a powerful and useful trait to have. This also allows people to connect with a face in cyberspace and not an avatar.
Now here are the dreaded don’ts. These bad habits should be avoided like the plague.
- Link up with everyone. This is a hotly debated subject, and people have made points on both sides, but I will give you my reasoning for why I am right. Your public, meaning your potential clients and your colleagues, will judge you on who they see you linked up with. It’s that simple. If you run a lawn care service and you are linked up with strippers, do you think a young mother will want to hire you and your crew for a job? Perhaps it won’t matter, but it probably will. Chances are you won’t be hired because of this. Anyone who hires you will likely check out your profile. This is an extreme example, but the point is that just like in real life, you are judged by the company you keep
- Link up with people just to spam them. This is a really annoying habit. I understand that it’s important to have a portion of your followers on a social networking site be colleagues. What I don’t appreciate is when I connect with another business owner and get solicited for business 20 minutes after the connection. It makes me want to drop the person right away. It would be one thing if they knew me for a while and knew that I needed their service, but that’s not what a lot of people do.
- Post anything you wouldn’t talk about at an in person professional meeting. This is a big one. People seem to have a disconnect when they are online. People sometimes forget that they are not alone when they are online, and they need to modify their behavior just as they would in public. When you post something online everyone you’re linked up to is going to see it. If you wouldn’t say it at a podium, don’t post it. Save the off color jokes for when you are around friends.
- Assume anything you post is private. This one is similar to number 3. The point is to never forget that you are online. Saying things of a private nature should only be done as a private message, but even then, it’s never really private. The words that you post are seen by everyone that you are connected with. Before you post it, ask yourself if you want it to be public or private.
- Post anything of a religious or political nature. This one is a big issue these days with the election right around the corner. Politics and religion can be very interesting topics, but the nature of them is that no matter what you say, there will be people who will certainly disagree with you. There’s nothing wrong with the topics, they just have no place on a business profile for social networking. Politics is an especially difficult subject. No matter what you say, roughly 50% of the country will disagree with you. To say that more accurately, roughly 50% of the country will shout and scream at their monitors. You just can’t win with this topic, and since you’re probably not just servicing Democrats or just servicing Republicans, lose the political talk.