Sunday, December 20, 2009

Party in the Workplace: 10 Rules for using Social Media with Your Business

Written by Chris Pinto

If you’re reading this, you’re one of the millions of people who enjoy interacting with people on the internet in this ‘new’ phenomenon of Social Media. But SMN (Social Media Networking) is nothing new. It’s the same kind of networking we’ve done for decades, at cocktail parties and meet & greets, at seminars and workshops. It has simply become easier, more accessible, and a lot more informal.

Where yesterday’s networking events were strictly business (usually attended by people in business attire seriously looking to promote their products and services) online Social Media sites combine business life with personal life…and that, in many instances, can be bad.

There is a reason we have a “work face” and a “home face”. Most of us do things at home or with our friends that we would never think of doing at work. This is called “professionalism”, something too many people are lacking when it comes their online persona. For example, posting pix of last weekend’s hot date at the trendy club might be great for your friends, but your boss and clients might find your antics a little unsettling.

This is why it’s very important to be careful how you connect your personal social networks to anything that has to do with work. If you’re going to use social networking for work purposes, you’ve almost always got to keep it separate from your personal life.

How do you do that online? Not quite as easy as it sounds.

Because of the way everything is linked (the whole purpose of social networking), chances are your personal life and your professional life are going to cross paths. The only true way to protect yourself from having potentially damaging personal information broadcast to clients and co-workers is to not have any personal networking at all. Since this is nearly impossible for anyone who enjoys online social networks, the next best thing is to follow some simple rules that should keep you out of trouble, and keep you looking professional in the eyes of your clients and bosses.

Here are some basic guidelines to follow that will help you keep your online persona both fun and professional:

1. Limit your exposure.

2. Take control of your social networks.

3. Never post derogatory or inflammatory content.

4. Keep your political and religious views and opinions to yourself.

5. Keep your posts upbeat, well-written and professional.

6. Let your personality, not your personal business, shine through.

7. Don’t junk up your social network with ads and pitches.

8. Don’t let your social networking get in the way of real work.

9. Post relevant and interesting content.

10. K.I.S.S. -->Keep it simple, stupid.

Read on for explanations of each topic…

1. Limit your exposure. Depending on your job, there are a lot of things you might not want your co-workers or clients to be aware of. Partying with co-workers might be fun, but can result in some very embarrassing photos. Stay away from the camera. Have fun, but don’t do anything too foolish, and keep your drinking under control. If partying means more to you than your job, then by all means live it up. If you’re serious about your career, keep it cool.

2. Take control of your social networks. Every networking site has email and/or text alerts that let you know when someone has posted content that pertains to you, including tagging you in photos. Make sure you monitor these alerts constantly, and check each one for embarrassing or otherwise unwanted content. Remove as necessary. If the content is on someone else’s page, nicely ask them to remove any reference to you from their post.

3. Never post derogatory or inflammatory content. This should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people think it’s ok to ‘talk trash’ about co-workers, clients, bosses, or even family members on social networking sites. “Venting” by posting how much you hate ‘Client A’ or think that ‘Boss B’ is working you too hard is an easy way to get canned. Unless you post to them directly, if you say something good about a client or co-worker, chances are they will never hear about it. Post something bad about someone and it will spread like wildfire. Use your head…never post anything you wouldn’t say directly to someone in person.

4. Keep your political and religious views and opinions to yourself. It’s very easy to get caught up in a discussion about God, guns, and government. Problem is, whatever stand you take, some of your clients and co-workers are going to be on the opposite side of the issue. This can be awkward with co-workers; it can be deadly with clients. Taking sides against a client on even the most inconsequential political or religious issue can cause them to drop you like a rock. Remember, if you’re using social networking for business, you want to build relationships, not destroy them.

5. Keep your posts upbeat, well-written and professional. This includes using correct grammar and punctuation. If language skills aren’t your strong point, get a co-worker to proof your tweets and posts before you make a fool of yourself. Don’t ever use street talk or slang, unless it fits your business. A bank branch manager posting “Yo, wat up yalls” is the equivalent of spitting on a customer. Also, never post anything negative. You may want to post how much you hate working overtime, and how tired and hungry you are, but it will probably come across as whiney and unproductive. Put a positive spin on everything.

6. Let your personality, not your personal business, shine through. The biggest mistake business people make on social networking sites is getting too personal about themselves with clients. Your clients want to know you; they’re interested in things you are doing and places you are going. What they don’t want to know is how depressing your life is. So posting about your trip to Disney World is great. Posting about your trip to the dentist to have an abscess removed is TMI.

7. Don’t junk up your social network with ads and pitches. This tip really falls under the heading of ‘how to market your business online’, but it can’t be stressed enough that social marketing is all about making relationships, not about pushing product. Your relationships will suffer and you’ll lose followers if you constantly barrage them with offers, commercials and products or services. Make friends. Be upbeat and positive. Let people know who you are and what you have to offer, the way you would in person. When they want a product you’re offering, they’ll remember you.

8. Don’t let your social networking get in the way of real work. So you’ve joined facebook™, you’re on twitter™, you’ve got a linkedin™ account and you’re digging™ everything you see. These networks take time to cultivate, and to maintain. Decide on a time limit each day, and stick to it. (Some businesses will decide this for you, and monitor your time on SMN sites). If you’re working on something important, turn off your SMN connections and software so you are not interrupted by incoming posts and messages. And keep your time on each site short…if your boss sees you on FB everytime he or she walks by, even if you’re sticking to your time limit, it’s not going to look good for you.

9. Post relevant and interesting content. It’s great to post videos of punk bands if you’re the manager of a Hot Topic. But if you’re a pre-owned Lexus sales manager in Boca Raton, that’s probably not a good idea. Make sure you understand the likes and dislikes of the people you are marketing to. Post content you think they will enjoy, and especially post things that are informational. The Hot Topic manager can post about where that band is playing, how to get tickets, and make suggestions on what to wear to the concert. The Lexus sales manager can post about the latest developments in hybrid cars, vehicle options, and when the new models will be out. It’s all relative to your customer base.

10. K.I.S.S. -->Keep it simple, stupid. Most people don’t have the time or the inclination to read long-winded articles (like this one) online. If it has to be long for informational purposes, bullet-point the major information at the beginning or the article (like this one) so that your readers can get a quick idea of what you are trying to communicate. If it’s something they’re interested in, they will read on. And remember to keep your writing interesting to keep your readers engaged. There’s nothing worse than reading through a post only to find you want to stop half-way through and grab a hamburger. Keep it light, keep it fun, keep it interesting, and your readers will thank you.

Comment always appreciated!

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