A huge part of running a successful business is being proactive—responding to e-mails as soon as possible, returning phone calls within the same business day, presenting new ideas for clients to consider, finishing projects ahead of schedule, searching for and reaching out to prospective clients before they find you, and the list goes on. These days, social networking presents an interesting challenge to proactive businesspeople: It offers a convenient, fast, and effective way to connect with clients and prospects, but the mediums are ever changing. In other words, it’s sometimes tough to keep up and easy to get lazy.
Take the last few years as an example. Created by Harvard students, Facebook started out as a social networking tool meant exclusively for college students; if you didn’t have a valid school e-mail address, you couldn’t set up an account. Soon after Facebook hit it big, it became available to everyone. Then it offered business pages. Then, just as businesses were getting the hang of how to use Facebook to build a brand and connect with clients and prospects, BAM! There came Twitter. A whole new can of worms. And this is without talking about other sites, like LinkedIn, YouTube, Friendster, and industry-specific social networking outlets. The fact is, unless you’re willing to devote a significant part of your day to managing various profiles, updating statuses, commenting on others’ walls/pages/Tweets, etc., you’re already behind.
Don’t despair. Just use your social networking time wisely. Try the following tips:
- Remember, quality over quantity applies here. There’s no point Tweeting two dozen times a day if the Tweets are useless or annoying. Instead, link to new blog posts, articles by industry experts, or other relevant sites. Also use social networking sites to let people know about new product launches, company accomplishments, etc. Don’t forget to include just enough personal info to keep your updates fresh and un-spammy.
- Don’t just update. It’s called social networking for a reason. Visit blogs, profiles, and pages of colleagues and other people in your industry. Take some time to leave comments and join the conversation but only if you have something valuable to say. Otherwise, get back to work!
Use these tools to make new connections with people rather than simply maintain existing ones. Do searches on Twitter for industry-specific words, and follow those people who you think will find value in your Tweets. Reach out to old colleagues and clients on LinkedIn; ask for endorsements and reciprocate if appropriate.
You may have noticed I’ve used the word "value" several times in this post. It’s for a reason. Without providing value for the consumer by posting valuable content, social networking is a complete waste of time—the enemy of proactive businesspeople everywhere!