I’m a social networking racist. I admit it. If you’re not there – you’re not. As simple as that. As I start browsing for business connections for my new startup, either service providers, potential employees, strategic partners – you’ve got to have an online presence, and a maintained and updated one.
Too often I am approached or connected with people who aren’t. Not online, or not updated, or think they can maintain their anonymity in this day and age, and still be looking for a job in hi tech, internet or marketing. I almost think it’s ridiculous. It’s like looking for a job as a life guard when you can’t swim. Really!
The common argument I hear is “I’m entitled to my privacy”, “I am a private person” and the best is “I don’t think the world should know when I have to go…”. -which proves my point exactly. These are not sentences a person who knows a thing or two about social networks would say.
For the benefit of those who don’t understand it yet, but want to, here are some replies and tips.
First of all – people can preserve their private lives to themselves even if they have a Facebook or Twitter active accounts. It’s your choice what you put up and what you don’t. You really should avoid reports on “when you have to go” – because no one cares.
Second – if you have any professional value, then you have content to share, and hopefully a valuable one. You don’t have to open a blog, just join the conversation, one way or the other.
Joining Social Networking Stages
1. Share Knowledge You Came Across
Being a professional persona I bet you are exposed to professional knowledge which you can share. Assuming you haven’t started to write articles and blog posts yet – start by sharing links.
2. Share Your Opinion
Share comments on items you read. You can actually post your professional opinion on market news, even if you read them offline. Just don’t forget to mention what you are referring to.
3. Get Knowledge from Others
Look at other professionals in your area and see what links and opinions they are sharing.
4. Share Information by Others
If those links are valuable – then share them with your friends and followers too (retweet/share).
5. Converse, React
Reply to those who shared knowledge with yours, or with thanks. Don’t forget to reply to those who replied to you or thank your retweeters.
All of those have nothing to do with your meals, children, spouse, sleeping habits, entertainment preferences, religion, or any other personal information which you would rather keep private.
Your online presence is yours. So avoid using the photos of your children instead of your own. Show online a simple photograph that would help potential business contacts find you in events.
Choice of networks
The most popular networks for business networking are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There are other social networks of course, but I’d like to review my own choice of how I use those:
1. LinkedIn is a networked résumé. It is based on the same Curriculum Vitae one might submit when searching for a job. So it’s an important network to be on, but it’s beneficial only if you make sure your CV there is really kept up to date. Another benefit is the ability to collect recommendations from people you worked with in the past – colleagues or clients. These are usually traded for your recommendation, but do reflect positive working relations. You will eventually decide which connection you’d want to make on each network. On Linkedin I’d start with people you have worked with or done business with. This can evolve later to potential employees or partners. Remember the main benefit of connecting to someone on Linkedin is to be able to connect through them to someone else, who might be a useful connection. Obviously, in a similar way, you should be able to help your contacts connect through you.
2. Facebook can be both a work tool and a personal tool. You can use it for both; you can group your business and family connections in two different lists and choose which items posted are exposed to which group. But for those who fear the leak of their personal information let’s just discuss the business use.
Facebook is an excellent communications tool. You start by connecting to your business contacts, colleagues or clients and begin by following them. Except for links and updates that they share, some might be more interesting than the others, look at groups and pages they join and of course – events.
Groups and pages are in fact smaller communities within Facebook with shared interests (I’m referring to professional interests). Some of these groups meet on various events, which would give you a perfect opportunity to meet with those colleagues of yours and expand you networking relationships beyond. Who would you connect to on Facebook? For me Facebook is rather personal so I try to limit my connections to people I’ve met or done business with or am already connected and familiar with over a longer period of time (for international contacts). When people who I don’t know ask to be friends with me on Facebook I will try to find out what is their interest. I would rather offer my personal email for assistance, than add them to my list of contacts. By adding them to my list of friends their updates are in my feed (are they interesting connections for me? Is their feed relevant?), and also they get updates from me on their feed (do I want to share with them?). The other suggestion I make to those who want to follow my updates – is to follow my twitter.
3. Twitter is a different platform. It’s the easiest and in a way the smartest tool of all. As a default your twits are public. You can make them private, but what’s the point there? Quoting someone smart – “it’s like going to a nudist beach fully clothed”.
So what is the business use of twitter? It does 2 main things: on the first level it allows you to gather professional information from your preferred sources – be it your colleagues or international bloggers or any knowledgeable sources who are sharing their wisdom on this platform. If a couple of years ago I needed to perform a daily search to find my most relevant news items, then today I get the most relevant items from my preferred sources, which already sorted a lot more than I could have scanned.
The second use of Twitter is to get your word out there. Use it when you feel ready. As stated above, social networking is a conversational tool. You join the conversation when you have something valuable to contribute, and you follow simple rules of courtesy towards your connections there.
To social-net or not?
This is an existential question especially if you are in marketing or marketing related industries and in the internet related industries too. I feel this is where markets go to. If the masses could have influenced the choice of logo of the Gap (just an example), then anyone ignoring social networking in today’s world is attesting to their staying behind.