I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering why nowadays it seems as though everyone is a social media expert. Visit any business networking event and there’s no shortage of people who will profess to be social networking gurus, ready to guide you through the online world.
These folks are on Twitter, they have a Facebook fan page, and they’re connected to loads (and *loads*) of people on LinkedIn – so they must be experts, right?
Dispelling the social media experts myth
There is a world of difference between having a presence online and actually building business relationships online. The difference is fundamentally that those who grow relationships do so through providing value, building trust and making connections, while the rest simply make noise.
Unfortunately, the biggest culprits when it comes to making noise seem to be IT companies.
It’s my observation that some IT companies typically fall into the same traps when using social media – ones that they think make them look like experts, but in reality don’t make them attractive to clients who genuinely want expert advice on how social media can help them grow their business.
Here’s some of the tell-tale signs that an IT company is bluffing its way through its social media output.
1. Fearful of losing their expert status
Some IT companies share expertise, but then don’t quote the source of their knowledge. They may see a Tweet from a colleague that is interesting, and rather than Re-Tweet it or give the source credit, they copy the content and share it as their own. They live in fear that their followers will realise that there are other experts out there.
The reality is that crediting others doesn’t diminish you as an expert, but it does position you as a trusted source. Nobody knows everything – but being the person who is well connected and continuously demonstrating you are learning from others actually engenders trust, not diminishes it.
2. Lack of Consistency
We’ve all seen this. One week social media is important to them. There is a flurry of updates to their various accounts –perhaps even too many. Then the next week, nothing. Silence. And so the silence continues for weeks, and maybe even months.
This cycle continues – often with significant gaps in between updates – demonstrating that social media is an afterthought, not part of the day-to-day routine.
Nobody expects anyone to be active on Social Media every minute of everyday. But consistency is important. IT companies who build social media activities into their standard routine are much more likely to understand the medium and use it effectively to add value to the relationships they build with others.
3. They only talk about themselves
For most of us, we’re all too familiar with this type of status update.
While I appreciate that everyone’s favourite subject is ourselves (myself included) a good IT company acknowledges that their social media updates need to fundamentally provide value to others. That means not talking about themselves all the time.
The general rule of thumb is to talk about things that are of interest to your followers 80% of the time, and to talk about yourself 20% of the time.
It’s OK to talk about yourself and acknowledge your own achievements, but if you do nothing else but this – then why would anybody be interested in following your ego feeding updates?
For an individual to do this, it's irritating. For an IT company to do this, it's embarrassing. It shows a lack of knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each social media platform in its own right.
On many occasions, it’s OK to cross-post updates. But work to the benefits of each platform. For instance, Facebook allows you to display specific URL link previews, and note individuals and businesses by name. Twitter allows you to use hashtags. But hashtags on LinkedIn? Bemusing to non-Twitter users!
Use the strengths of each platform, and appreciate that what is suitable for Twitter may not be suitable for Facebook, and visa versa.
You may be putting out the best and most valuable content in the world. But if you’re not engaging others in conversation, you can come off as isolated, or worse, disinterested.
Social media is a great opportunity to start conversations. With your peers, with your clients and with your prospects. You can effectively earn permission to talk to potential new clients.
Don’t waste that opportunity.
Social media is a powerful modern method of communication. It can help you to build relationships, gain credibility, and to position yourself as a trusted source of knowledge.
Use social media inappropriately however, and at best you’ll turn people off. If you’re not careful, that could result in you alienating clients and prospective clients too.