One of the buzzwords for small business today is social networking. It seems that everyone is doing it and many do not know why, or how, to use it effectively. Most people have heard of Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, and while these are three of the most popular, there are hundreds of social networking sites available.
When used correctly, social networking can be a very effective and inexpensive (even free) marketing method. Small business owners new to social networking can make many mistakes that ruin the results they had hoped to gain through this medium.
Here are five common mistakes that new people make and how to handle them:
Mistake #1: Having the wrong attitude — Social networking is not about selling, it is about building relationships. By building relationships you create visibility and credibility. This is not the time to blatantly sell something because it will turn people off. Instead, go into this knowing that it takes time to build relationships. Be patient and allow people to get to know you. When people get to know you and are in need of what you offer, they will automatically come to you to fill the need.
Mistake #2: Missing an opportunity to network — As you get to know people, opportunities will come up to network with larger networks. People will ask you to become part of their networks or ask you to be a friend. Consider every invitation wisely. Is it within your niche? Are you likely to find either customers or joint venture partners by accepting this invitation? A mentor of mine is fond of saying, “Say yes to every opportunity to keep it open and available to you. Say no later, if the situation changes.”
Mistake #3: Mismatched profiles and posts — When others consider adding you as a friend or a networking buddy, they will review the information you have made available on your profile or posts. If they like what they see, they’ll probably add you. If your profile is filled with games or content that would make your grandmother blush, potential connections may pass you by if they are not interested in those things. As another example, if all you tweet on Twitter is ‘buy this’, ‘sign up for my…’, others may not ‘follow’ you, They don’t want to be sold to all the time; they want to know who you are, make the connection, and then see what you have to offer.
Mistake #4: Not continuing conversations when people ask — As you become more visible in social networking you will be engaged in conversations. Always look for ways to talk to people or give feedback. This increases your reputation for having the answers and your visibility and credibility will continue to build. If you ignore emails and direct contacts, you send the wrong impression of your integrity as a business person, and you may also lose what could have been a great customer.
Mistake #5: Focusing on counting heads instead of building relationships — many people go to social networking sites to see how many people they can have on their list. Numbers do not mean anything in this medium if you are not building relationships. If you build your rapport with people, you will have a more solid foundation for your network. This foundation will eventually help you create loyal customers.
Social networking is an important aspect for small business as people continue to opt for busy lives. It is more cost effective and some experts even predict it will replace traditional networking and marketing methods eventually. If you become adept at building your networks, you will have the competitive edge over those who do not follow this networking opportunity, and your profits will grow.