Social media can make you more efficient, effective, and connected. Most importantly, it can open doors to new opportunities. Social media is not magic, but it does connect people and allow them to build relationships.
1. Don’t be weird.
Remember our assertion that the rules of engagement online are the same as those offline. Make sure you have a profile picture (and make it public) and fill in some information about yourself. If you are sending a request to someone you have not personally met, include a note explaining why you’d like to connect. Otherwise, you’ll be known as the scary stalker person.
2. Don’t sell.
Social media is social! You have to interact with and engage people. Who wants to be friends with a billboard? The great thing about social media is everyone chooses when and with whom they wish to interact. People who are always selling or pushing some agenda are boring at best and annoying at worst. Imagine being at a cocktail party, observing different contacts holding conversations with an audience of people around them.
You might walk around the room listening to conversations before you choose which ones to participate in. If you observe a boring, cheesy salesperson, you will likely tiptoe right past him/her and move on to the next conversation. If you have a product or service to sell, build relationships by building yourself as an expert. Then, if you mention your offerings from time to time as a solution, it won’t be seen as selling.
3.Make a choice—business or personal?
You may decide to use social media to keep in touch with your eccentric great aunt or to build relationships with movers and shakers in your industry. Now, imagine your dream boss at the company you’ve been salivating over, seeing your aunt’s post on your Facebook timeline about her latest body piercing. Probably not a pleasant thought, huh? You will have to make a choice.
If your personal contacts are on social media for professional purposes, and you are certain they are not going to post inappropriate things on your timeline, you may add them. If that is not the case, do yourself a favor and don’t add them. Some family members won’t make the cut. I have a few of my own who I’ll never accept a friend request from on Facebook. This doesn’t mean I don’t love them or won’t communicate with them in other ways.
When I talk about making a choice, I do not mean that you talk only about business. At work, you may mention your children, a hobby, or even a cause you are passionate about. To build relationships, we have to let others see who we are—within reason. So, just as you do not share everything at work, you would not overshare online.
Before posting, think, “Will this contribute to my professional image?” If it will build your personal brand as someone who is knowledgeable, kind, giving, a go-getter, etc.—go for it. If it will gross everyone out or anger people due to their personal beliefs—leave it out. This is especially true regarding political or religious posts.
4. Be genuine.
The days of the phony business professional are over. The days of doing business with brands without getting to know the people behind the brands are over. Social media is social; people want to connect with real people. Take this opportunity to show a bit of your personality. Maintain a professional image while building relationships.
Think about work relationships. Hopefully, you and your co-workers know something about each other’s personal lives and personalities, even though you don’t share everything. If you don’t care for children, hopefully, you do not go to work pretending to be Fred Rogers or Shari Lewis.
Sooner or later, people will figure out you are a phony. Imagine if you do manage to fool everyone in the office, but a new person is hired who knew you before you adopted your current persona—a disaster in the making! Social media works the same way. This is not the time to reinvent yourself into a yoga-loving freethinker if you are really a Type A, Git-R-Done person.
Eventually, if not immediately, people will see through you. When they do, you can count on at least one person announcing to the world, via social media, that you are not who you portray yourself to be. It makes much more sense to focus on being genuine from the beginning. Highlight your best features and care about others. Shower your connections with love!
5. Add value.
The thing that separates someone who is on social media strictly for social reasons from someone who is on there for professional purposes is the fact that the astute professional will add value.
Share your research/knowledge, link to great articles your contacts will find useful, keep your contacts updated on advancements, tools, and neat time-saving tricks. Connect your contacts with others who may be a good fit.
Uplift someone who may need it. Make sure you are consistently leaving people you encounter a little better off than the way you found them. If you do this, people will start to spread the word about you, and you will find yourself being connected to new friends, prospects, and potential collaborators.