Social media has revolutionized networking. Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram can be extraordinary tools for expanding and deepening your connections with business contacts, clients and potential partners.
But it’s also important to have a savvy approach. Many business owners make the mistake of using the traditional hard sell on social media, and then wonder why their efforts don’t pay off.
“Social media is one of the most productive places to network,” says BDC Business Consultant Chris O’Shea, who advises business owners on social media marketing. “You can quickly find like-minded people from the comfort of your office, and you don’t need an introduction. But you can easily turn people off with the wrong approach.”
O’Shea shares these five tips for networking on social media like a pro.
1. Build a social presence
Start by deciding who you want to network with. Ask yourself who is in a position to help you advance your business. Then, research which social media sites these people use most. The most popular social networking sites for business are LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, but every industry is unique. Check which sites your competitors are most active on. And search various sites to see what activity exists that’s relevant to your business.
Choose one or two sites to target initially by creating a business and/or personal social media page. You can add other sites as you gain experience. Start building your network by inviting people you already know to connect with your page, such as family, friends, community members, employees, business contacts and clients.
2. Post engaging content
Think of engaging content to post on your social media sites. Your goal is to foster a community of like-minded people who see you as a thought leader, interact with you and share your content with their networks. Examples of content include how-to videos, blog posts, surveys, contests, industry and market insights, white papers and eBooks. Keep your writing concise and reader-friendly, with short sentences and paragraphs. Avoid technical and marketing jargon.
You should not only post on your own pages, but also engage with people on other social pages by commenting on and sharing content.
It’s also important to continually add new content. Keep track of what types of content get the most attention, and add more of it. For inspiration, study the social pages of competitors and others with a successful social presence.
3. Avoid the hard sell
Avoid self-promotion on social media. It’s highly off-putting and will push people away from your network. Instead, think of ways to be helpful. “People don’t want to be sold to. You can network best if you provide value and don’t have a huge agenda for yourself,” O’Shea says.
4. Focus on quality over quantity
Focus on the quality of your social interactions, not the number of followers. If you offer value and engage in meaningful conversations, your network should grow naturally on its own. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Try to establish relationships for the long-term,” O’Shea says.
5. Practice good etiquette
Good online networking etiquette means being professional and responding diplomatically to criticism. “This is an opportunity to wear the white hat, to be a good person and a non-complainer,” O’Shea says. “The complainers are not the people anyone wants to do business with.”