Social networking is something of an enigma: on one hand, business pundits insist that a viable social networking presence is valuable; on the other, they offer scant advice as to just how to create and sustain a social networking presence that adds real value. Beyond ominous warnings to keep your social outlets squeaky clean or to offer strategies (and service offerings) to push negative publicity far off the first couple pages of a Google search, it’s tough to find a simple, practical, “do’s and don’ts” of social networking for business. Clearly it’s unwise to post negative comments about your customers or fringe political statements on your Facebook profile. But treating everything as if it were a digital marketing brochure takes a lot of the social aspects out of social networking and hobbles you from realizing its full potential. There is an obvious balance between a staid, bland, joyless page and one that forever tarnishes your reputation. Just where that particular balance lies depends in large measure on what you hope to accomplish in terms of your brand. Here are some rules that allow you to advance your brand without taking all the fun out of life.
Post useful and interesting content.
You have to give your followers a reason to follow and share your information. It doesn’t take too many bland or misleading posts or tweets before people will flip past you without a second thought, and once they are gone it is tough to get your audience back.
Post with purpose.
On a similar note, avoid posting material just for the sake of putting up content, and before you post, ask what the post says about you’re brand. Not everything should be shared, the things you don’t post tell the world as much about you -- or more -- than the things you do post.
Combine different social media outlets to drive traffic to your sites.
One hundred forty characters doesn’t allow you to communicate much information, so use it to drive traffic to more content rich sites like blogs, reviews, your website, or articles.
Create a rich public portrait of your company.
As much as we all love to extol the virtues of our company, share its storied history, or the legendary genius of our founder, it tends to be a bore for the average web surfer. Consider posting profiles of your people -- and not the standard bios and pedigrees, but the interesting details that make your people tick. Do they mountain climb, rescue abandoned animals, or go kayaking. Businesses like to do business with people they know and trust, and something as simple as well-done profiles of your people helps the people who visit your site to get to know you beyond the stale bios your prospects are used to seeing.
Don’t respond to negative posts about your company.
When someone writes an indignant Yelp review, or a blistering review of your company you may be tempted to compose a digital diatribe; don’t. No business gets 100 percent positive feedback and everyone has a few customers with more than a couple of screws loose. The temptation to try to set the record straight in print can be tremendous, but doing so usually ends in disaster. If the posts are truly libelous then retain an attorney, but if they are just matters of opinion, either reach out to the person by phone and offer to make things right, or forget the sting you feel from the hurtful words and move on. At any rate you must take the moral high ground.
Sometimes less is more.
Your social network is a form of media exposure, and good public relations agents make sure their clients don’t get over-exposed. There are lessons to be learned from this approach; before posting, ask yourself if you are advancing your brand by providing some new information about yourself or are you repeating yourself. Repeatedly posting similar messages about how great your latest product line is may not only make you seem less interesting, but more mono-dimensional.
Post your best, leave the rest.
Social networks allow us instant and immediate access to the world; use this access judiciously. Never post while angry, under the influence, or in any other state that may cause you to post things you will regret later. You may be able to take down sites and scrub your public image, but negative posts may forever alienate people who you may someday want on your side.