Effective business social networking is a skill — one that is easy to begin with and gets better with practice. As a business owner, one of your main concerns will always be how to improve your return on investment for time spent social networking.
While it is easy to set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, using these sites to meet your business objectives requires a thoughtful approach and consistent action.
Let’s take a look at five tips to help you become a better business social networker and to make more profitable business connections online.
1. Realize online networking is similar to real life networking
In real life networking, you make connections one person at a time. The same is true for online networking. Don’t be seduced into thinking you can create meaningful relationships with a lot of people at once, simply by posting updates about what you do.
A better strategy is to consider the online social networks as providing you more access to more people, from the comfort of your home or office, while realizing that the basic relational skills to make a connection remain similar both online and offline. In other words, meet a lot of people, but meet them one-by-one.
2. Keep your desired outcomes in focus
If you will be using social networking to grow your business, it is wise to capture baseline data and keep track of your success along the way. Let’s say, for example, that you want to increase your number of local contacts and relationships using Facebook. You would want to note how many contacts you have as you begin, and to make periodic assessments of how many new contacts you make. Only by measuring before and after will you know if social networking is helping you reach your goals. It is often easiest to select just one metric per campaign.
3. Keep it simple
If you are focusing on building relationships one at a time, you want this to be as simple as possible. One way to keep this simple would be to focus on just one social network. Participate deeply in your chosen network, rather than sporadically across two or more. Given the time-shifted and asynchronous nature of social media, you must network consistently in one place to get the best results. Without this commitment, you run the risk of wasting your time and efforts.
4. Focus on giving first
One of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise or the benefits of your business is by “showing, not telling.” This means giving advice, sharing resources and pointing people to information that will educate and inform them. By filtering the most useful and relevant information for them, you position yourself as someone with credibility and you gain social influence. People will begin to pay more attention to what you say when they perceive you as someone who provides good information that helps them.
5. Cement your online connection in real life too
The best way to use social networking is as a means to create in-person connections. Once you get to know someone better online, be sure to invite himor her to an event or meeting so you can meet in real life too. Make an effort to set up a coffee date or lunch date, and to even do this when you travel out of town. I, for instance, try to meet up with one or two of my online connections each time I travel to a new city. People like to do business with people they know and trust, so the goal is to meet in person to cement that “like and trust” factor.
If you remember that the goal of social networking is to make real connections, and to improve the lives and experiences of those you connect with, you’ll be well on your way to more effective business social networking. Becoming skilled in business social networking will grow your connections, will generate referrals and will bring you new opportunities. All of which makes dollars and sense.
About the author: Rachna Jain helps her clients become more profitable and more well known online. She blogs at ProfitablePopularity.com.