Effectively using Social Networking to build your IT Support business - Part Three

Richard Tubb

Social networking for it companies. When we ran our "Finding Customers through Networking” webinar and blog series earlier this year, we had so many questions around Social Networking that we decided to run a separate webinar dedicated to the subject.

During that webinar, entitled “Effectively Using Social Networking to build your IT Support business” (now available to view again) we had a lot of really good questions and requests for more information – so we fingers to the keyboard to write this blog as a companion to the webinar. We hope you find it useful!

In the second part of our article, we looked at “Content Loops”, Blogging and the tools to use to be effective with Social Networking.

Tips for using Twitter

Twitter pictureTwitter is one of the well-established Kings of Social Networking. The premise of the site is that people exchange 140-character messages or “micro-blogs” publicly, and others follow those messages and respond appropriately… or otherwise!

What you say will be open for the world to see, so like blogging, you have an opportunity to share your message with anyone and everyone. Also like blogging, you wouldn’t want to say anything that you’re not comfortable being quoted on!

In the last part of this series of articles, we looked at the tools you can use to manage your Social Networking – and never is this more required than with Twitter. If you aren’t careful, Twitter could eat up all your time – but managed carefully, Twitter is an effective way to share your viewpoint, educate and begin conversations with like minded people.

It’s recommended to use Groups to categorise those you follow. You might have different groups for “Business”, “Friends”, or “Local Contacts”. Be aware you can also setup private groups, the members of which only you will be privy to – think “Prospects” or “Clients”.

If you’re not sure how to get started on Twitter, then an easy way is by answering a question. Helping someone out with your expertise is a great way to win new followers, and you’ll quickly acquire a reputation as an expert in your specific field. Don’t be afraid to ask questions too – giving others the opportunity to help you.

Another way to add value using Twitter is to share articles that you have read that you think others will find of interest, or Re-Tweet (or RT) a link that someone else has published. If space allows, try leaving a comment expressing your opinion using the ^ sign at the end of a Tweet, i.e.

“RT @tubblog “The Social Networking Tools I use” - http://bit.ly/kSwpjV – ^ I also use SocialOomph. Great tool!”

Finally, you can use Hash-Tags to associate your Tweet with a specific subject. For instance, when attending an IT Conference you’ll often find that other people at the Conference are Tweeting using a specific hash-tag such as #WPC11 or #AutoTaskLive. By searching Twitter for this Hash-Tag, you can see who else is at the Conference and begin a conversation with them.

You can follow MSP Business Management at http://www.twitter.com/mspbizman

Tips for using Facebook

Facebook logo. Everyone is using Facebook it seems. Young and old, Tech-Savvy to Luddite – if you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out.

Most people use Facebook predominately for personal relationships with friends and family, but make no mistake about it – Facebook is used extensively for business.

In the first part of our article we talked about “Content Loops” and making sure your message got out to people using the channel they were most comfortable with. The channel you are now most likely to find people on is Facebook, and so it makes sense for your message to be shared in that channel.

This might take the form of a Facebook Fan Page – a personalised page for your business or brand that allows you to share content and engage people in conversation. Again though, the key here is quality over quantity. Whilst it might be a nice ego stroke to have 1,000 people “Like” your Facebook page – how many of those 1,000 people are you having quality conversations with?

Whilst Facebook may be primarily a personal tool for most, the lines between personal and business friendships are blurring. Whilst you may not want a client to see all your New Years Eve Party photographs in the same way you’re happy for your best friend to see, remember that people do business with people they like.

Don’t be afraid to share something of yourself via Facebook. By using Facebook Privacy settings, you can make sure that your business contacts get a feel for who you are, without you sharing anything you’d feel uncomfortable with.

Remember that you can also use the @ sign, A la Twitter, to include people in your comments. A simple “Spent a great day working with @Clientsname – thanks for working with us!” is a fast way to acknowledge your clients who you are friends with on Facebook.

You can check out the MSP Business Management Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/mspbusinessmanagement

Tips for using LinkedIn

Linked in logo.Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn has a solely business focus.

Originally a business networking site where people connected with one another, LinkedIn has in recent years added many other features that make it a powerful Social Networking web-site.

For instance, LinkedIn now offers Twitter-like Status updates. 140-characters to share what you’re doing, or information that you think others will find valuable. But whilst LinkedIn may be similar to Twitter, a word of caution – use Status Updates sparingly. Most people who want to read 5 or more updates a day will be using Twitter, the rest won’t care for you being too “noisy”.

Likewise, if using a tool to cross post between LinkedIn and Twitter, don’t use Twitter Hash-Tags (#) on LinkedIn. They’re typically not used, and only serve to confuse people. Always personalise your update for the platform you’re posting to.

Status Updates can be used to highlight your latest blog post, but you typically wouldn’t use it to record the minutiae of your business day.

LinkedIn is a valuable tool when used as part of your business card process. All those business cards you’ve gathered at networking events? Rather than let them gather dust – connect with the individuals concerned on LinkedIn, and through regular status updates, you’ll be surprised how easily you stay in the forefront of people’s thoughts.

LinkedIn also send out a weekly e-mail which highlights status updates and other changes in your network. As your network grows, this is a great way to “at a glance” keep up to date with what is happening within your network. Make a habit of looking at it and using it as an opportunity to reach out to people when they are promoted at work, move to a new job, or qualify for a professional qualification.

LinkedIn also has a number of Groups, invaluable for interacting with both your prospective clients and your peers. The GFI Max LinkedIn group is awash with great advice, questions, debates and feedback from IT Companies using GFI Max as their RMM tool. Other groups have similar discussions, perhaps appropriate to your local area or a vertical market you have expertise in.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool, perhaps the most powerful Social Networking tool for businesses. But remember that you’ll only get results if you use it properly.

Social Networking Etiquette

We’ve already covered a number of tips for Social Networking etiquette that is applicable to specific web-sites. Don’t use Twitter Hash-Tags on LinkedIn, use Facebook Privacy settings, and so on. But many Face plant. people ask if there are any other Social Networking etiquette they should be aware of.

The simple answer is, when in doubt – treat Social Networking as you would traditional networking.

That means being courteous and polite to people. Taking time to respond if people have asked for your opinion or feedback. Making sure that your message may not be mis-interpreted.

Remember that what you say on-line reflects upon you individually, and on your business. Do be yourself, but don’t say anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable being quoted on.

When adding friends on sites such as LinkedIn, don’t “friend collect” – always write personalised introductions within the connection request facility. Boiler-Plate “Can we be friends” requests come across cold and indifferent. A personalised “I hope you don’t mind if we connect on LinkedIn, as I believe we might benefit from talking about…” is warmer, and more likely to start the relationship off on the right footing.

For more on writing personalised introductions, you may be interested in reading the blog post “Thanks for your Friend Request, but who are you?”#

Finally, a good tip is to always be looking to “Be the Connector”. You’re likely to meet a lot of people on-line, and not all of them will be people you can do business with directly. However, they may be the perfect connection for someone else in your network.

Don’t be afraid to connect these individuals up with a personalised e-mail, stating where you met each other, and how you feel that the person you’re introducing may be a good contact for them. In this way, you’re adding value to two relationships – and you’ll be rightly be remembered as somebody who is well connected.

Social Networking vs traditional Business NetworkingSocial and business networking.

By now you’ve probably realised that when comparing Social Networking and traditional Business Networking, they two are not dis-similar and share many of the same philosophies and traits.

The fact is, Social Networking compliments Business Networking – and visa versa.

If you build a relationship with somebody in-person, social networking allows you to easily stay in touch. If you build a relationship with somebody on-line, face-to-face meetings allow you to cement that relationship.

Putting all your energy into just Social Networking or Business Networking alone will only get you so far. A more progressive joined-up approach to using the two, perhaps mixing Face-to-Face, Telephone Calls, E-Mails and Social Networking – will yield much more positive results.

I hope you’ve found our series of articles on Social Networking useful. Remember – if you have any follow-up questions then feel free to e-mail me directly, visit my blog at www.tubblog.co.uk or start the conversation with fellow GFI Max Users on our LinkedIn forum!

Like this article? Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Richard Tubb is an MSP Consultant to GFI Max. You can e-mail him at [email protected] or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.