It seems that everybody nowadays is a Social Media expert. Go to 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 on-line world.
They are on Twitter, they have a Facebook fan page, and they’re connected to loads of people on LinkedIn - so they must be experts, right?
Well, it’s my opinion that there is a world of difference between being on-line and being effective on-line, and one of the main culprits for this seem to IT companies.
It’s my observation that some IT companies typically fall into the same traps when using social media - one’s 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 it’s way through their Social Media output.
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 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.
We’ve all seen this. One week social media is important to them. There are a flurry of updates - perhaps even too many. Then the next week, nothing. And the week after that.
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.
“We visited a client today, who told us we are great!”.
“Our monthly client surveys show us to be flawless!”
“Talk to us about how good our IT services are.”
Any of these type of updates seem familiar? Sadly, all too familiar I’d guess.
While all of our own favourite subject is ourselves, a good IT company acknowledges that their Social Media updates need to fundamentally provide value to others.
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?
How many of you are irritated when a friend automatically cross-posts their Twitter updates to Facebook. Or their LinkedIn updates to Twitter?
For an individual to do this is irritating. For an IT company to do this is 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 Hash-Tags. But Hash-Tags on Facebook? 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.
Many people think more is better. The more people they follow on Twitter, the more followers they’ll accrue.
But if you have 20 followers and follow 2000 people, it says to me that what you’re saying isn’t interesting enough, and you aren’t paying attention to what other people are saying. It’s fairly tough to follow the updates of 2000 people!
Most Social Media savvy IT companies have learnt the benefits of segmentation. They use Twitter lists to follow groups of people - to learn from (industry experts), to maintain relationships with (vendors), to continue the conversation with (clients) and to woo (prospects).
Segmenting those you follow on Social media means you can more easily follow conversations, and join in those conversations - which leads us to…
Social Media is all about the conversation. But some IT companies think that transmitting alone is ok. The reality is, you need to receive too.
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, not interested.
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, to gain credibility, and to position yourself as a trusted source of knowledge.
But use it inappropriately, and at best you’ll turn people off. At worst, you’ll alienate clients and prospective clients.