A few years ago, I might not have written this article. In fact, a few years ago, we were still debating whether “social” should be used for business at all. Now there are entire companies out there whose marketing and sales cycle depends heavily on social selling, social service, and social media marketing.
It’s fair to say that we’ve arrived. Now, before I get hammered in the comments, I do not believe that social media is the cure for all business ills, nor do I think that some business isn’t best conducted face-to-face or over the phone. However, as the owner of a company which not only takes advantage of social recruiting but also uses social advertising and selling to inform and educate customers, I’m ready to give some heads up about what not to do.
- Don’t tempt fate. Every single person has the right to make political statements, and in the last election, I saw at least 90% of my friends on Facebook do so. But going “into the ring” means you’re fighting, and no matter how justified you feel it is, it reflects badly on you and your company. If you are determined to make political statements, keep your personal social media accounts separate from your professional accounts. If you can go one step further and state your opinions in person, where there is far less chance of your views being misconstrued or used out of context, so much the better for you … and your employer.
- Don’t have a dirty mouth. But, Raj! There are tons of people on Twitter, Facebook, even (gasp!) LinkedIn who curse all the time … surely one little da**it for emphasis wouldn’t hurt! I think that the closer you look, the more you’ll realize that those people fall into one of two categories: CEOs (who can say whatever they dang well please) and consultants (who are trying to attract a very specific kind of client). If you don’t fall into one of those two categories or you are a CEO or consultant whose target market includes the corporate or Fortune 500, lay off the dirty language.
- Don’t do your clients’ work for them. We see this a lot in recruiting circles … vendors, ATS, job boards and more “tweeting” out jobs for various clients. This is a social no-no for a couple of reasons. One, unless you have the world’s largest network, it’s a completely shotgun approach. The beauty of social is that it connects people from all walks of life, from all over the world. No one cares that you are hiring a .NET developer in Indianapolis, except the .0002% of people in your network who may apply to and who might see it. If you must help out a client this way, learn to use the filtering options in Facebook or Twellow (to determine Twitter location).
- Don’t be a frequency spammer. This is more of a guideline, but if you find yourself doing a lot of business via social channels, consider setting up separate accounts. While I am sure that your mother or best friend is happy about the amount of information you share on Facebook about your business, they probably aren’t very interested unless they’re in the same line of work. I learned this one the hard way when I realized that half of my friends had “silenced” me on Facebook. It wasn’t because they weren’t interested in my life, but because they saw more of my work than my life … and didn’t care.
- Don’t spray and pray! You know how recruiters get really upset when they receive multiple communiques from a candidate before they’ve even had a chance to view the resume? Well, your audiences feel the same. Let’s think about this for a moment. If someone is following you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, your blog, Twitter, etc. they are probably pretty interested in what you have to say. Now, when you post that same message to every network in the span of 30 seconds, they get 3-6 of the same exact message. We call that “brute force marketing” and it’s rude. So stop it. This goes double for other member of your company — if you have a strategy of retweeting each other’s content for the sake of it being seen, try to buffer those tweets or use common sense as to what people might be seeing when five people from the same company send a message verbatim. It shows a lack of sophistication.
- Don’t confuse potential customers. When you use social for business, you need to create a channel through which every new lead comes, whether you are a one-person shop or a startup firm. If someone reaches out via Facebook or LinkedIn, MySpace or GitHub, they need a process. It can be as simple as a singular email address you direct them to, or copy and pasting the communication into a traditional or “Social CRM.” This accomplishes two things: First, they realize that you are a real business. There is a bit of casual atmosphere on social that has to be overcome when it comes time to transact. Second, it gives you the ability to follow up on every social interaction without letting anyone fall through the cracks. This is invaluable when it comes time to prove the ROI of your social business strategy.
- Don’t be a baby. Sometimes, business relationships don’t work out. If this happens with someone you met on social, don’t go blast that person on social. It’s unprofessional and petty. No matter how much you may be entitled to totally blow them away (you’re in the right, you have a bigger network, you don’t name them specifically) it comes off as either: a) passive-aggressive — You lambast someone but blur the name or mock them while giving just enough clues so people know who you are talking about; b) mean — If you have a larger network and you take on a deserving but perceived underdog, that makes you look like the bully, or c) easily offended — If you are constantly picking fights on Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook, etc, people might wonder what it is you do all day and start thinking you are the problem.
Do you have a tip about using social media to do business? What did I leave out?