Are you using social media to expand your network and connect with new people? Maybe you’d like to increase the opportunities for your company to interact with customers. If you’re looking for ways to build your presence or your company’s presence online, keep reading.
The idea for this post came from my new friend Arik Hanson, who I’ve been getting to know recently. Arik asked me what I’ve done to start building a broader network of contacts and relationships with some incredibly smart, amazingly talented marketing/PR/social media folks.
So here’s what I did to get immersed in social media tools and build what Arik at least thinks is the start of a decent online presence. These tips can be used for individuals like yourself or for brands like your employer. I’m not claiming they are groundbreaking, but this is what I’ve found helpful.
1. Be Human – For the love of all that’s good, be yourself. People don’t want to engage with robots. They want to connect with other humans. Toss some [appropriate] personal stuff in your interactions to complement all the professional talk. On one of my first blog posts, Chris Brogan wisely commented, “I’m still a person when I’m at work.” In other words, don’t check your personality at the door.
2. Add Value – There are lots of ways to provide value to your online connections. Share great industry news stories and funny videos. Point them to other smart people with whom you think they should connect. Have a point of view on issues or trends and let them know about it. If you work for Kraft, share a great recipe daily or links to nutrition news.
3. It’s Not About You. Seriously, it’s not about you or your personal brand. It’s about everyone else. Shine the spotlight on others. Celebrate their successes. Brag about them to your connections. Use social media networks to engage your customers in ways that make them feel like the most important people on the planet. When you are a champion for others, an interesting thing happens. Others become a champion for you.
4. Engage and Interact. If you write a blog, follow up with readers by commenting on their comments. Email those who comment and thank them for their time and insights. If you’re on a social media platform, reach out and strike up conversations with people. If you’re a business, start conversations with your customers. Ask them what you could do better. Thank them for their business.
5. Don’t Broadcast. Shannon Paul would say “don’t be THAT guy.” If you or your company sets up social media outposts to broadcast messages, you won’t have much success. Your corporate blog should NOT be chock full of posts about new products and company news. You shouldn’t set up automatic direct messages on Twitter that basically say, “hey! click my junk and subscribe to everything I’m doing!” That turns people off immediately.
6. Participate Consistently. I believe consistency is key. Let’s take Arik for example. While we started chatting through Twitter only about a month ago, I not only know his name, but I also can spell it despite its unique spelling. That’s because he takes time to participate consistently and engage me regularly. The result is that he was top-of-mind for me when I wanted to point my Twitter connections to a great new person to follow. The same holds true for employees who participate in social media for their brands. Participating consistently builds a stronger online reputation for your company and boosts your presence within social media circles.
7. Don’t Focus on A-Listers. You should learn from the A-Listers by reading their blogs and following them on Twitter or YouTube. But I didn’t and still don’t spend a lot of time or effort trying to engage them online. If we’re ever in the same room, you can bet I will introduce myself. But these folks have so many people vying for their attention that they can be spread a bit too thin. I focused on creating relationships with people who were up-and-comers. Your company may want to target the biggest mom blogs on the Web. That’s fine. But I’d recommend also targeting middle-of-the-pack and new bloggers who are creating great content. It’s easier to engage them and there’s a good chance their readership will grow if they’re producing good stuff.
8. Don’t Sweat the Numbers. Spend your time focused on the content you’re producing, not the number of blog visitors or Twitter followers you have today. By participating consistently and adding value, more people will find you and begin connecting with you. The numbers will come if you’re doing the other stuff well.
9. It’s a Small World. Remember that when you’re about to write a nasty comment or blog post or Tweet or Facebook status update. Your reputation on your blog will follow you to Twitter and wherever else you hang your online hat. Not to mention the fact that Google’s spiders will index that moment of rudeness and, with your luck, it will probably be on the first page of results from a Google search of your name. As my three-year-old daughter would say, “that’s nawt good!”
10. Experiment. When you do share links to your latest blog posts on Twitter, alternate the times of day you tweet it and note which times you received the most traffic. That may give you some insight into when the majority of your followers are online and shape what time you send future tweets on behalf of yourself or your company. Use the Questions & Answers section of LinkedIn to extend the conversation of your latest blog post and see if it drives any traffic to your blog. I love experimenting in these ways and I use what I learn for both myself and my clients.
What is missing? What have you done that’s really helped build your online presence or that of your clients? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments.
*Image by Noah Sussman.