The social media minefield

Many people now use social media, not just to keep up with their friends and family, but for business too. Some people only use it for business, preferring not to chit-chat about more personal things.

But the whole point of social media is that it’s social. It’s no good just blasting out information about your business in the hope that someone might take an interest. Your messages need to be interesting to those looking at them, and in the appropriate tone.

Nobody goes on facebook to find out the latest business thinking. They log on to find out what their friends are up to, see their family’s latest photos, look up old friends they’ve lost touch with. So if your messages are going to stand out in that environment, they need to be relevant. Because if you’re not careful, people will simply click the ‘hide’ button and your messages will no longer appear. And if all you do on twitter is post links to your blog articles, you will quickly lose followers – they might as well just subscribe to your blog. Linking your twitter updates to your LinkedIn or facebook updates is just asking to be ‘unfriended’.   The three main social media sites have 3 speeds;

LinkedIn – slow and steady
Facebook – quick and lively
Twitter – fast and furious

So by all means, send your LinkedIn and facebook messages to twitter … but not the other way round.

Setting up your strategy

The first thing you need to do is to decide who your audience is.

You might then decide to have different media for different audiences. For example, if your objective is to build relationships with suppliers and industry peers, you might choose twitter or LinkedIn. If you want to get to know people that you’ve met through networking you might choose facebook. If you want to stay connected without sharing too much personal information, choose LinkedIn.

Personal or business?

Should you use your personal identity, or your business one? Again, it depends on your objective. Think about the size and style of your business – would it be better represented by a person, or a business identity? Are you speaking on behalf of your business, or is it your personal views?

The only trouble with a business is that it lacks personality – unless you give it some! So if you’re presenting your business, how can you give it that extra ingredient that makes people relate to it? Often it’s about a peek behind the scenes, or an insight into an everyday but interesting occurrence. The worst thing you can do when presenting a business is simply to talk about your products and promotions. That doesn’t do anything for building relationships.

If you’re presenting yourself personally, imagine you’re at a networking event or conference. What would you be chatting about to the people in the room? If you don’t feel it’s appropriate in that environment, then it’s probably not appropriate to post online.

You also need to consider whether to keep your personal contacts and business contacts separate. Some people are happy to mix them all together, but again it depends on what you’re posting. Would you be embarrassed if a business contact commented on something you intended for your friends and family?

Be clear about what you hope to achieve from your social media presence, and that will make the whole process much smoother.

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