The Dos and Don’ts of Social Networking

Social Networking and Advertising is not the same thing. Too often, businesses mistake Social Media websites as traditional marketing platforms. If you are interested in getting the most out of your Social Networking efforts, read on. eMarketSouth has assisted many companies in getting exposure on Social Networking websites. In our experience, the Golden Rule in Social Networking is: Ask, Help, Connect, and Listen.

Social Networking is the coming together of individuals into particular groups by way of special interests, location, social circles, or any other form of commonality. Although Social Networking is certainly possible in-person, the popularity of Online Social Networking is growing exponentially. Examples of Social Networking websites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn (and MANY others). Social Networking and Social Media (blogs, podcasts, videos, and news) are now the 4th most popular kind of online activity. 67% percent of the world's population is now visiting Social Networking websites and the time they are spending on these platforms is increasing rapidly. The following points will help you stay focused while promoting your business online and will help you avoid some of the most commonly made mistakes made by businesses as they begin to use Social Networking as a marketing tool to promote their business.

DOS (Best Practices):

1) DEVELOP A STRATEGY (AND STICK TO IT!) - To any successful marketing plan, strategy is key. Outline a strategy that works for your business model and your available time frame. The most important thing to remember when devising your Social Networking plan, is time management. There are even time-saving tools available to help you get the most out of your time. Map out a weekly schedule with specific days and times you will invest in your social media strategy.

2) BUILD RELATIONSHIPS - Sincerity is the name of the game in Social Networking. Be conversational and get involved. Executing your Social Networking Strategy takes time. Cultivate meaningful relationships by being visible and engaging in conversation. Doing so will solidify and build upon your credibility. A solid Social Networking Reputation is essential to reaching your digital marketing potential. Social networking is not all about you, your company, your products, or your own personal agenda; Social networking is a conversation. Be sincere, do good and well unto others, and earn your followers.

3) CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE - Don't just tout your products all day long, talk about the industry! Become a thought leader in your field and be openly interested on the latest innovations and advancements. Cater to your audience and share the knowledge they seek and they will surely stick around to learn more and return loyally with interest and respect. Remember the Golden Rule: Ask, Help, Connect, and Listen.

4) FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES - Let the real people in your business community shine through. Not only do your customers want to know who is behind the mastery of your business, but doing so builds your availability and your credibility. Don't talk from behind your business practices, be yourself and join together as a group alongside your followers in mutual support for your industry cause. On Facebook, for example, don't create a personal profile for your business masquerading your brand as a person. Create a group page where people (including your employees and business partners) can come together as a community interested in your product or brand.

5) CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORM FOR YOUR BUSINESS - Although Facebook is the largest form of social media and most likely a tool you should use to increase awareness to your business, there are many other social networking websites out there. Other networks may have a smaller market, but when looking for the right niche customer base, digging a little deeper to find them is well-worth the effort.

6) HAVE FUN - Experiment and dream big. With all of the people available to reach through social networking sites, the possibilities are truly endless. After searching for that perfect niche of potential customers, you might walk away with more than just Facebook fans and twitter followers. You may just stumble upon a business opportunity and meet new business partners and clients.

DON'TS (most common mistakes):

1) DON'T WASTING TIME - Time and planning are both essential in Social Marketing and when you jump right in without a plan you can end up wasting valuable time. Using your time wisely means finding the right sites to market your business, not getting distracted while marketing your business online (*AHEM*Facebookers), and not failing to recognize when it is time to delegate social medial responsibilities to a consultant or simply another person.

2) DON'T DO LITTLE OR NOTHING - In most cases, empty profiles and old updates are worse than not networking at all. Many people make the mistake of setting up a blog, a Facebook account, or a twitter feed, and then not keeping it populated or updated with fresh content. On a social networking platform, fresh content means you care. If you don't care enough to regularly share ideas and information with your followers, they will lose interest fast.

3) DON'T MISTAKE NETWORKING FOR ADVERTISING - The line between interesting and annoying is thin so don't forget that social media is about engaging your customers and not about selling. Don't get carried away with pushing your brand or products. Social networking is about brand recognition and not about selling. Experiment slowly at first and update only useful stuff two or three times a day. Pay attention to your social networking growth and the feedback from your followers. Allow this to be your guide to carefully plan your future strategies.

4) DON'T HOARDE FOLLOWERS - With social networking, you must remember the importance of quality over quantity. Don't be desperate, be patient and aware of your most valuable audience. Don't log on to Facebook and friend everybody you can find. Search for the correct networking platform and the people who would sincerely be interested in, and benefit from, what your business or brand offers. You will enjoy a much higher success rate if you cultivate meaningful relationships.

5) DON'T MIX BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE OR POLITICS - It is important to remember, when representing your company or brand online, that you stay true to the fundamentals that the business was founded upon and keep personal opinions and agendas out of it. Heated arguments, political views, and activist ideas exclude people. Unless your business is founded on a specific agenda, keep it open and copacetic.

6) DON'T RELY ON GENERATED CONTENT AKA:SAY NOT TO BOTS - There are many tools out there that may make your social networking efforts go smoother and save you time and although the correct use of them can be enormously helpful in terms of carrying out your strategy but beware of automated content. Bots and software designed to drive your Social Networking campaign without the human touch will disconnect you even further from your followers. If you use a 3rd party software or website to help you update your profiles, make sure the content is personally generated. Social Networking was built on the idea of transparency. Transparency means real people and honest content. As the world wide web evolves, it is becoming increasingly apparent that initiatives with real people behind them are the ones destined to succeed.

In closing, if you want to be a part of the Social Networking world, be social! Be polite, participate, and thoughtfully seek your best audience. Websites like Facebook and Twitter are the perfect opportunity for you to hand-pick your clients, search out and implore your enthusiasts, and advocate your industry specific news and best practices. So don't just sit around! Go have fun and good luck!

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