Perhaps no other pocket of life has felt a greater impact from social media than the world of business. According to recent data, 98% of sales professionals across the UK believe social media is essential for closing deals. Networking with peers, communicating with colleagues old and new, and reestablishing connections with past acquaintances has literally never been easier – or more instantaneous.
With so many people staking their claim across the internet, simply having a social media profile is no longer enough to stand out, and certainly not the best way to take advantage of the many benefits that social media offers. On the other hand, blindly blasting the same message out across multiple channels (he whose only tweets are auto-posted from Facebook, we see you!) doesn’t do you any favours either. To maximise the potential of your social media universe, here are key points and best practices to keep in mind.
Know Your Channel
Repeat after me: not all channels are created equal. Each one has its own unique strengths and, as a result, its own unique user base. Twitter users are looking for short-form bursts of quick information. Facebook users are more adept at long-form blog-style posts, and including a photo always helps grab attention, but isn’t necessary. Instagram and Pinterest are completely unique to each other, but both are driven by photography and imagery. LinkedIn is more professional in nature than just about any other network out there. Even if you’re broadcasting the same basic message across all channels, the shape that message takes will need to change depending on the network you’re using. There are varying degrees of formality to consider. Just as you would customise a cover letter for a job application, you should customise your content for different social media platforms.
Join the Conversation
One of the great ways that Twitter can benefit networking in the age of social media is its ability to let you not only find conversations that are already happening, but join in with something relevant and useful. Other platforms have attempted to adopt the hashtag system, but none have done so as successfully as its inventor, Twitter. Search on Twitter for hashtags that are relevant to your brand or business and pay attention to what people are already saying. Don’t try to steer the conversation in your own direction, but contribute with something meaningful along the way.
Go Beyond the Numbers
Regardless of the social media channels you’re using, your focus should be quality, not quantity. If you have a million fans and followers that you don’t engage in conversation with, what good does that do you, or them? Even though you’re talking about an entirely digital platform, the standard rules of networking still apply. It isn’t about having a huge number of contacts – it’s about having MEANINGFUL relationships that actually play a long-term role in the business you’re trying to build. Never forget this simple fact. Big numbers are great, but conversations, partnerships, and connections are what really matter most.
Selling and Networking Are Not the Same Thing
If your entire networking plan for social media is “find someone relevant to your product or service on Facebook and send them a link where you can buy,” rest assured – you’re doing it wrong. It’s very easy to do that on a site like Facebook or Instagram, but resist that urge as much as possible. And the auto-DM on Twitter – avoid that impersonal first impression at all costs. For the best results, approach each interaction not from the perspective of “What can I sell this person?” but “How can I HELP this person?” If you can master that, everything else will fall into place.
That’s not to say that you can’t leverage your social network to proactively engage qualified sales leads – starting with who you know, or are most closely related to, is highly beneficial, and social media makes identifying those connections easier than ever. The brand and agency profiles in our own sales intelligence tool, Winmo, contain an integrated LinkedIn pane that identifies who at a given company you’re already connected to – a favourite feature among our current clients.
The bottom line is that social media is a valuable tool, for those who use it wisely. Now go forth, share this post on LinkedIn, and write a witty summary to put your personal spin on it!