Don’t know your retweets from your likes? Confused when to mention or when to hashtag? Social butterfly Sai helps us with some social media networking dos and don’ts!
Networking via social media can be a confusing concept. It’s easy enough to be online and have a whole world to speak to, but it isn’t always easy to be an effective communicator using all the new dynamic tools at our disposal. Here are a few of my top tips for networking via social media:
Determine your reason for networking online via social media
See if you can answer these basic questions for yourself before haphazardly starting to try connecting with people. Are you trying to sell something – a product, your company’s services, an idea? Are you trying to educate yourself on something – in discovery mode for your business or purely for personal interest? Do you want to influence a particular audience? Do you want to connect with someone specific to get a job? Are you trying to be an authority on a particular topic?
Your responses to these questions will help you devise the most effective use of your time. Let’s take this example for the purposes of this article: X wants to network via social media in order to sell a new eco-friendly product in Hong Kong. X should, as with any general communication exercise, create some messaging around his or her goals.
Figure out your audience
Who are you putting your message out to? Now that you have your reason to be networking via social media and some content to post, have a good think about whom you’re trying to network with and what you could do to reach them.
Let’s assume our person X has had a good ol’ think, and that potential retailers, customers, and anyone interested in environmental issues or conscious consumption in HK are his or her audience. Success! X now knows whom to engage with.
Be positively engaged
Social networking doesn’t work if you treat it as just another vehicle to carry your message. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, you’re going to need to invest yourself in engaging with people, ideas and companies you want to get your message to. Interaction is the name of the game! Find a good voice for yourself online, and interact with your intended audience. Contribute thoughts to existing conversations, and build a rapport.
Keep your tone positive, because as much as any of us wish for an online world of absolute authenticity, let’s face it: our person X isn’t going to make too many friends via social media if he or she appears hypercritical, arrogant, pestilent, or condescending… Zero followers this way!
Yes, we’ve all seen those Twitter streams brimming with funny cat photos. While that’s entertaining for some in the online universe, you want to achieve something out of your time investment, don’t you? Do yourself a favour, and stick to your message and audience if effective networking is your purpose. Our person X isn’t going to benefit by going off-topic if he or she has a particular goal.
Underestimate potential repercussions
It’s rather easy to get into trouble using social media – it takes just one click to post a rude remark, or, importantly, a remark that could be construed as such. A stray perceived brag could lose you several followers if your tone is off. Think before you post/blog/tweet/pin/upload/tag/retweet/quote/respond (…phew!) because most of what you’re doing is public; in our environment plagued with privacy issues, you should always think about it like that anyway! Should X get involved in defending his or her eco-friendly product with an unhappy customer? Not on social media. Take the conversation offline.
Expect quick returns
Every platform has its etiquette. Take some time to learn it by observing. Interaction takes time, and you’re going to need to wait for your intended audience to take notice of you, and then respond if they are inclined. Our person X shouldn’t expect his product sales figures to sky-rocket in just a few weeks on Twitter; this is a longer-term engagement.
A good point of departure for getting up to speed on networking via social media would be finding offline events, and then starting to follow relevant people you meet online and interacting with them. HKSocial, a monthly social media and business event organised by a few of HK’s digitally inclined (yours truly included, for full disclosure!), brings together companies and people who want to stay on top of social and digital trends.
Another event to keep an eye on is InstaYay, where local Instagram devotees meet up, and TDHK, a monthly Twitter gathering over drinks. Meeting people who are interested in, and have a track record of using social media successfully, will provide a good context for your own efforts – and they’re likely to have all kinds of other helpful tips too.
With a background in international relations and international law, Sai Pradhan worked in public relations before becoming a headhunter in Hong Kong. Connect with her on Twitter @SaiSays.