Publishing

Networking with Social Media

From a business perspective, the ideal use for social media is to build your brand and your credibility with the people you are connected with; it’s about providing value for your connections and followers. It is important to offer them useful information balanced with a little personal insight, and whether you’re talking about face-to-face networking or online networking credibility and relationship-building are still critical to the process.

With social media, the key to success is outlining a strategy that takes into account the amount of time you can realistically dedicate each day to your online marketing efforts, and to be consistent.  People have a tendency to get online at random times and start clicking away. Then something mysterious happens in the “space-time continuum” and all of a sudden two hours go by and they have nothing to show for it!  Here’s how to avoid falling victim to that trap . . . have a plan and work it! Write up a plan for how often you will work your social media and for how long.

Sit down and map out a weekly schedule that outlines specific days and times during which you will spend developing your social media strategy. Figure out what’s realistic and what makes sense for your company and go from there. For example, you might schedule yourself simply to post one update at 9 a.m., one at 1 p.m., and one at 5 p.m. daily, and then dedicate 10 minutes to responding to comments and direct messages at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you might then dedicate 10 minutes at 10 a.m. and 10 minutes at 3 p.m. to re-tweeting people’s comments that you find valuable and also thanking people for mentioning you or for re-tweeting your posts. This is just an example, but you should definitely take the time to devise a social media strategy along these lines that specifically makes sense for you.

Leverage your time! Be sure to utilize the various tools currently available that are designed specifically to save you time in your social media efforts. For example, sites like http://ping.fm, www.seesmic.com, and www.tweetdeck.com are designed to send your social media updates to multiple social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, with one click.

Some sites even allow you to link multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts (if you have more than one) to one desktop application where you can post updates to all sites as well as view and respond to your friends’ posts on those sites and keep a log of all your past posts. This means no more logging into multiple social networking sites . . .  you can manage all your social networking accounts from one place!

Also, there are sites such as www.cotweet.com where you can schedule updates in advance so your updates will be posting even while you’re not online. With all the traveling I do, this is a tool that I’ve personally found to be very useful.

Once you have your strategy in place, you will no doubt be anxious to start seeing a return on your online networking investment and it’s very important to remember one thing: Networking, whether online or face-to-face, is more about farming than it is about hunting.  It’s about cultivating relationships with people. The bottom line is – it takes time. It is about building the credibility of your brand. That doesn’t happen overnight.

Return on Investment (ROI) is directly correlated to either:

1.     Dollars spent (online paid marketing), or

2.     Time and/or effort spent – in saturating and building strong profiles on whatever social media channels are deemed effective for the brand (including blogging).

Don’t forget that some businesses will benefit much more from spending more effort on “niche” networks that may have less traffic, but that are more targeted to the brand’s ultimate consumer.

If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep it will not be successful. It is important that you create a network that is both wide and deep. You do this by being visible and engaging in the conversation. Over time, this gives you credibility that leads to building your brand and your sales and that will ultimately give you the biggest ROI for your online marketing efforts.

Most of what I’ve discussed so far has focused on what you should do in order to carry out an effective and profitable social media campaign for your business. But there are also some things you should be sure to avoid in order to be successful.

Below are the top five common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to social media networking—avoid all of these:

1.     Spending too much time on sites you enjoy and not fully evaluating whether those particular sites are the most effective ones for your efforts.

2.     Going onto a site for “work” and then running down rabbit holes getting distracted by friends who may have posted something interesting or something that requires a response.

3.     Not being able to properly define when it is more cost-effective to delegate certain social media responsibilities to someone else to handle.

4.     Setting up a blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter page and then not keeping it populated – consistency and fresh content are key.

5.     Forgetting that social media is about engaging in the conversation and not just about selling.

Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author.  He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization.  His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com.  Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.

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