WHILE SOCIAL MEDIA may seem everywhere in our everyday lives, its use in professional services is still considered new and is often dismissed – as a fad, irrelevant, “full of people talking about what they had for breakfast”…
But, business is about relationships, conversations build relationships, and social media is packed full of online conversations. Yes, some conversations are less interesting than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. Social media is just another way for us to talk.
Think – old rules, new tools. Traditional best practices still apply, but you can reach a larger, yet more targeted, audience. Social media accelerates the know-like-trust-buy-advocate cycle.
Start with LinkedIn. Think of it as your virtual shop front and consider how others would read your profile. If your ideal client were looking to hire someone with your skills, would your profile encourage them to walk through the door?
Make the most of your LinkedIn profile by providing links to your corporate website, blog and Twitter. If your firm doesn’t have a corporate profile, create one and encourage all staff to link to it. Make your public profile your own by customising the URL to http://linkedin.com/in/yourfullname. this can give you the highest possible Google ranking which means it’ll be the first link on Google for anyone searching your details.
As I built my profile I realised how social media is a wonderful research resource. I now routinely read the websites, blogs and profiles of contacts before approaching them for the first time. Time can be saved and conversations made more relevant when you already know someone’s areas of interest and mutual connections.
Relationships that might have taken years to build can now be formed in a matter of months, sometimes even weeks.
Regardless of whether you’re on board with social media your competitors and clients are. Use social media to research clients and prospects; learn what they’re talking about, and what they care about. Don’t join conversations and meetings without this easily available business intelligence.
Once you’ve sorted your virtual shop front, join the virtual cocktail party. The etiquette of Twitter means that if you have something interesting, insightful or amusing to add to a conversation then it’s fine to join uninvited, (I think of Twitter as the cocktail party and Facebook as the house party – your familiarity, language and tone of voice should be appropriate to the occasion).
To enjoy the party, upload a picture (be aware of the dress code), write a bio (think about how you would like to be introduced to people you would like to connect with… so the conversation doesn’t come to an abrupt end after your introduction) and start tweeting.
Silence isn’t golden on Twitter and you need to keep chatting, but, be mindful tweets are public and it’s difficult to delete your digital footprint. At a cocktail party you wouldn’t stand around not speaking for the whole evening, equally you wouldn’t take centre-stage, grab a microphone and start broadcasting your dirty laundry either!
Similarly, don’t delegate social media to junior members of staff – if you wouldn’t send them to an event to represent your company in real life, don’t send them to the virtual equivalent.
With my corporate background, I was acutely aware of the dangers of making inappropriate comments. But, I also realised a personal touch was necessary, and when I decided to share my experiences of starting a business, the aspect I most feared soon became what I liked the most. It quickly became clear to me how powerful social media could be for business…
Enjoy the party!
Linda Cheung is CEO of CubeSocial
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