Social networking seems easy especially because with the click of a mouse you’re connected to someone. You can have up and running a social media profile in minutes, and usually for free.
The truth about social networking that no one wants to admit is that it’s hard work. While the barrier to connect is low, the barrier to trust and attention is high.
The fundamental path to succeeding at social networking is to consistently engage in a way that provides and contributes value, relevancy and meaning. The bonus would be to achieve this without adding costs to the others.
As you think through your social networking strategy, here are five unspoken and unwritten rules of social networking.
1. Connection does not imply relationship
Many social networks make it easy for you to connect with anyone. You can follow someone on Twitter, Quora or Google Plus without needing their permission to do that. The problem today is that when people click your name or check a box to follow you, they immediately think they have a real relationship with you or your brand.
A lot of brands believe that they need to get as many connections (likes and followers) as possible because that implies a relationship. And even worst they broadcast to them. It’s not about having all the connections in the world and it’s not about broadcasting—it’s about building relationships.
2. Engagement is most effective not hard sales
From day one it’s been said that the proper use of social networks is for engagement, not sales. But when you think about it – effective selling has always been about engagement first, because true engagement happens between people.
Small businesses and independent professionals that have embraced the best use of social networks use it to:
- Identify very specific ideal clients
- Connect with friends of friends of existing clients
- Search networks for potential opportunities
- Keep tabs of what’s going on in a client’s world
- Personalize content on a case by case basis
- Engage in sharing with and for clients and prospects
- Make introductions that turn into referrals
I don’t know about you, but the entire list above sounds like engagement and relationship building of the highest order – the kind that can’t really happen in a mass market way – the kind that successful people have always employed.
The reality is that social belongs everywhere in the organization and each department and individual is charged with using social behavior to meet their objectives and add value to relationships.
3. Quantity and activity is not productivity
The barrier to create and share content on a social network is non-existent. This means that you can write or share whatever you want— whether it makes sense or not.
You can get tied down with social networking— trying to share anything and everything. In your enthusiasm to share, you might drop the quality of what you share.
That’s when the problem starts—people will silently start to ignore you.
4. Value is not determined by you
A lot of people have trouble with this one. This is the rule that many don’t understand and it’s a HUGE problem.
Just because what you have to say, email, tweet, post, pin, etc. is very important to you that I see it, doesn’t means it’s important to me. And even, though the internet allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher (you), doesn’t mean you have the right to do so.
Remember every single person has their favorite radio station WIIFM- What’s In It For Me and if they don’t see the value in what you have to communicate, you lose. (To read more, please see Anticipated, Personal and Relevant.)
5. Amplification without accomplishment is worthless
Social networks are a great amplifier. But fundamentals of multiplication formula is always at play. You can multiply zero with anything and the result will still be zero.
You need relevant accomplishments and recommendations as the foundation and social networks can help amplify them. You have to do something offline to get them amplified online.
Spend time building your business, doing something remarkable and acquiring accomplishments. Once you have them, you can use those to extend your influence using social networks.
About the Author: Patrick McFadden is the owner and marketing consultant at Indispensable Marketing, a strategic marketing firm in Richmond, VA. He helps small to midsize businesses improve or create a strong marketing foundation that will carry the company’s marketing efforts into the next decade and get new or better results.