Social networking has seen an unparalleled explosion in popularity across all age groups, over the past several years. Although we’ve moved past fad and cutting-edge technology into something more mainstream, the perpetual changes to software and sites keep most of us on our toes. Although there social networking rules are as varied as those using it, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind, especially when trying to use social networking on a professional level.
Remember as you explore the world of social networking and online communities, you are dealing with people. It isn’t advisable to barge in to a community, blog, bulletin board or conversation thread of any kind and announce that you are the guru of any given topic, any more than you would dial a random phone number and announcing to the person who just picked up that he or she was now your BFF.
Building relationships and taking part in conversations online should happen much the same way it would getting to know someone at a party. Even the sharpest of membership management software is designed to help forge connections, simplifying the process, not take the place of them. You cannot simply buy software and expect it to create an online community on auto-pilot. So how do you make social networking work for you? Try these ideas to get started:
1.Do your research. Find out what others are doing around you; that means competitors, specialists, trend seekers, even your friends. How are they using social media/networks? You might be surprised what gems you collect from such unexpected sources.
2. Mimic. Find a successful entity to model your organization after. Can’t find one you like? Pick one you don’t care for and do the opposite (You really can learn from other’s mistakes).
3. Subscribe to RSS feeds or enewsletters. Most industry people will tell you they do a lot of skimming of the Internet for content meaningful to them and their organization(s). RSS makes it easy. As you’re surfing the Net, when you find content you like, check for a little orange icon and click on it to request updated content be sent to you automatically. No RSS feed on the site? Use your bookmark feature instead of your favorites. Then those sites can travel with you no matter what computer or phone you’re on. (Apps like Evernote can also be helpful with this sort of compilation.)
4. Blog, blog, blog. Blogging has gone mainstream. There is no better way to convey your organization’s voice than through this method. Whether you choose multiple blog contributors or just one, don’t concern yourself with your inability to write the Great American novel, concentrate on your message (but do run spell check, please). Also, it is not necessary, or advisable, to write solely about your organization. Feel free to add some personal touches or industry information. Point out what you like and who’s doing it well. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion. Opinions frequently elicit feedback. Feedback means more readers. More readers mean more traffic for your site.
5. Comment on other blogs. Share your insight but make sure it’s relevant to the discussion. You can insert your own site URL (if it makes sense within the conversation) to increase traffic/readership on your site. Use the same discretion you would when giving a recent acquaintance a business card. If it seems like a good opportunity where you both will benefit, do it; if not, wait for another opportunity. Don’t overlook micro-blogging sites. Amass a following and be a follower.
6. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Why recreate the wheel? There are companies out there able to do it more efficiently than you can. Seek their help. Look for a vendor partner that offers web-hosting, site design, networking/membership management, administrative tools, customer service and all future enhancements for one low price. Do you really need to take on the expense and time of doing something in-house that can be done elsewhere for less money and resources? While you can’t automate a connection, you can simplify your daily tasks.
Don’t be afraid you’ll “do” social media wrong. Share as you would like to be shared and engage as you would like to be engaged. The rest will happen.