- Do you have to be on all available social networks – like YouTube? Twitter? Facebook? …or what?
- Should an individual use his or her own name on the social networks, even if they are representing their employer there?
- And really: What is there to say on Twitter, anyway…?
You don’t need to be everywhere. You do, however, need to be where your customers are, so choose sites frequented by your customers. Start with the Big Three: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Later, explore YouTube and custom Ning networks. I like the way Paul Chaney, the self-described "social media handyman," differentiates between the Big Three: "LinkedIn is your business suit, Facebook is business casual, and Twitter is the 24/7 ongoing cocktail party."
Be yourself. Use your own name as a social network "handle" and your headshot as an avatar, even if you're networking on behalf of your company.
Pull, not push. Social-media newbies often make the mistake of being too aggressive. "For example, don't respond to new Twitter followers with a 'Thanks for following. Visit my Web site for a free...[insert whatever promotional message you've seen],'" adds Chaney. Social networks are about conversations that build relationships. They aren't channels for broadcasting.
Be the Yoda. Social networking demands a different kind of marketing and selling. The best approach to encouraging conversation and connection in any social network is to be a trusted resource for your community of followers or "friends."
In other words, don't just push your own products or services, but become a knowledgeable expert that your potential customers or clients can turn to. Create valuable, relevant content that offers solutions to their problems and helps them be more successful or productive or whatever, and then offer your expertise to others.. "Smart marketers know this and are creating strong brand relationships by providing good, authoritative, even leadership-type content," says the Godfather of this approach to "new marketing," David Meerman Scott.
Wade in. The best way to get a feel for the business potential of social networking is to experience it as an individual first. So wade in – even tentatively at first, perhaps just up to your knees rather than fully immersed. And before too long, you'll likely start to recognize the value and richness the social networks can offer.