Rules of Engagement on Social Networks
By: Nikki Little
Five Analogies to Help Guide Your Conduct on Various Social Networks
So you’re joining all of the social networks you keep hearing everyone talk about. And now that you’re here, you’re not exactly sure what you should be saying, or to whom. It can be daunting, confusing and time-consuming, to be sure.
Of course, it is possible to use a third-party application, such as Tweetdeck, to integrate all of your online profiles and update them all concurrently, but I would advise against it. There is a danger in taking the easy way out, as there always is.
For one, you should not assume that all of your contacts in each of your networks have joined each community for the same reasons, or is looking to get the same value out of each. For example, I like Facebook because I can connect with my friends and family; I like LinkedIn because I want to keep in contact with business contacts; and I like Twitter to meet people I have no prior relationship with. So if you conduct yourself the same way, and say all the same things, and provide all of the same information in all of the networks you engage in, you’re running a risk of annoying some people while entertaining others. Additionally, you’re demonstrating a lack of effort, and with it, a lack of sincerity in the messages you are hoping to deliver to your respective constituents.
So if you’re wondering how you should conduct yourself in these various environments, follow these basic principles:
1. Social Media Is Like a Cocktail Party
Generally speaking, social media can be compared to a cocktail party. When you walk into a party, you see a bunch of conversations going on. It’s up to you learn which conversations you want to join, and which people you want to meet. If you’re there to talk business, you seek out business conversations; if you’re there to have fun, you seek out fun conversations. The advantage of all of this happening online is that you have the ability to pre-qualify conversations—and those conversing—before injecting yourself into the discussion. And you can pick and choose which conversations make sense to be a part of, and which you should avoid. You can learn what the participants’ points of interest are, a little bit about their background, and their potential needs…all with a simple search and a little research.
2. LinkedIn Is the Business Networking Event
LinkedIn is the primary business-focused social network. It is more controlled than other social media environments, and people are there to talk and do business. People aren’t there to post photos of their family vacations (they can’t), and they’re not there to publicly deride their cell phone provider. They are generally there to meet prospective business relationships.
So act like you would if you were to attend a professional networking event that your company is paying for. It’s okay to talk business, but keep it professional. And don’t kick the door open blaring an overt marketing message at the top of your lungs. Take the time to get to know people first, and how you might be able to help them. Just like in the real world, if you’re aggressive, it will be off-putting, even if everyone in the room is there in a professional capacity.
3. Facebook Is the Backyard Barbecue
Unlike LinkedIn, Facebook is not all business—in fact, far from it. Think back to your most recent cookout. You invited family and friends. You may have invited some people from work, but likely not the prospective clients you’re pitching. You certainly hoped your boss didn’t show up. You weren’t there to talk shop, though the topic of work may have come up. Rather, you talked about your weekend, you shared stories and photos about your kids, you discussed relationship issues…reality T.V….sports.
Think about that the next time you’re tempted to penetrate your Facebook friends’ news streams with blatant marketing messages about your company, product or service. Would you show up to a backyard barbecue, uninvited, peddling a brand new set of encyclopedias? Of course not. If you’re going to be a pitchman, you’d better be sure that those listening truly want to hear it.
4. Twitter Is a Frat Party
If you’re younger than 30, perhaps the analogy is “Twitter is a rave.” Whatever the case, Twitter is noise, let’s face it. It can be difficult to manage, and difficult to discern the value unless you’re patient and committed. Like the few fraternity parties I attended in college, Twitter is analogous to a bunch of people standing in a room screaming over each other, with loud background noise and music. It’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion or to establish valuable new relationships in that environment. However, if you can get the right person into another, quieter room, or figure out a way to continue that conversation outside of the frat house, you may be onto something. So you need to take (or bolster) your Twitter conversations offline if you truly want to get through.
Almost anything goes on Twitter, seemingly…which is why you need to work harder to communicate with the people you want to reach. Twitter will open the door for you to meet people you have no prior connection to, but you will need to compartmentalize the noise to find and cultivate the relationships of value.
5. Comments Are Like Bringing Wine to the Party
So you want to engage with others, and you want to reach out via status updates, tweets, blogs and blog comments, etc., but you don’t know what to say. Where to begin? Think of it this way: If you’re invited to that cocktail party, and you show up empty handed, don’t you worry what people think of you? If you bring nothing to the party, you’ll be remembered as the guy or gal who was invited to an event, showed up, but brought nothing of value. Now, show up with a bottle of wine, a dish to pass, a case of imported beer, or a nice dessert, and you will be remembered as the guy or gal who added value to the party.
Think about what the people at the party want, and provide it for them. You will be rewarded with their connection and their continued attention. In the inexact science of relationship mining, that’s the most you can ask of people you’ve never met.