Many sales professionals we work struggle with the question of how to leverage social networking platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter into their business development plan. Here are twelve simple steps you can take that will make it easier for you to launch and sustain mutually beneficial social connections online.
First and foremost, you have to have the right attitude to make social networking work for you. Here are three things you need to do as you begin to look for prospects online:
Keep it professional. For some reason, people think it is okay to post pictures on Facebook that they wouldn't want their boss or clients seeing … or "Like" things that have no business on a public profile associated with your company. Separate your business and personal lives online.
Remember that frequency and consistency matter as much as content. Online, it’s hard to get people's attention and hard to keep it. Your social networking plan should include a calendar of activities and the discipline to execute it. There are a lot of phonies online, and it's hard to know who to trust. Prove your worth by sticking it out, and standing out with your professionalism.
Be ready, willing, and able to transition to voice-to-voice or face-to-face contact. Don't expect to be best friends because someone added you as a friend. You are not connected professionally because of the connection on LinkedIn. You are still going to have to take the time to build and maintain the relationship over time.
Accept that there are some basic things you are going to have to do. These include:
Sign up and complete your professional profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Follow the favorites in your industry, join popular groups where your prospects congregate, and connect with key influencers and referral partners. Send personalized invitations to connect to your network and suggested friends.
Request recommendations and favorites politely … and return the favor.
Update your status at least 3 times per day … morning, noon, and night. (That sounds like a lot, but apps like Hootsuite and Buffer can help make this schedule manageable.) Manage your time intelligently as you do this. Use the 80-20 rule – 80% content and 20% promotion. Look for ways to establish credibility and add value with your content by sharing broadly applicable insights and exercise, rather than delivering free consulting online.
Finally, follow these simple “netiquette” steps as you interact with other professionals online.
NEVER USE ALL CAPS! (It's considered yelling.)
Keep private stuff private. Only share personal stuff with personal friends.
Respond to every message from a real person, even if it is just to say "Thanks!”
Respond on the social media site you were contacted through, unless asked to call or email. You can use your message to suggest another communication medium if you like, but respect the initial platform.
Don't send out or respond to invitations for games or other timewasters.
Remember: The internet is forever. Make posts you can be proud of. Manage your reputation. You are judged by the company you keep, so be careful about who you add to your network.