Social media can be tricky. These days, your business seems like it has to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Google page, along with any number of different social media apps and pages just to be seen as legitimate. Some people loathe social media; others love it. But no matter how you slice it, most people depend on it for news and a new brand of socialization. No doubt about it, the advent of social media has changed how we communicate. It is becoming a core medium for brand building, client connection and even direct to consumer marketing.
For professionals who use social media for their businesses or public personas, navigating the unique set of online social skills can be challenging. How many times have we seen a company make a social media blunder? Worse yet, how many times have you seen an individual make a social media blunder and have that blunder spill over into their business life? That is the most common occurrence, and the list of mistakes that we can make is virtually endless.
Many times, it’s an innocent mistake. Other times, it’s a lack of properly translating real-life etiquette to social media strategy. And really, that’s what we all need to remember to do. Too often, when we go online, we take it as an opportunity to leave all etiquette on this side of the screen and let vitriol — and really, stupidity — enter instead. Social media is simple, and the way to build rapport, trust and strong, long-lasting brand comes down to some very easy-to-remember steps.
4 Real Life Social Skills to Bring Online
Type Like You Talk (Mostly)
This point comes with a handful of caveats. There’s a profound difference between your professional presentation and your personal one. You speak differently with friends than you do with clients. Too many times, though, people default into trying to speak with too much formality online. This can result in a perception as being cold and detached, when you’re just trying to be professional. Let yourself use contractions. A little slang is okay here and there if it fits with your brand. Of course, it’s best to avoid crude language and off-color remarks. But the more naturally you present yourself, the more your followers will see you as a real person.
While you want to avoid typos and obvious misspellings or misuse of words, writing in clipped sentences or run-on sentences or missing proper punctuation here or there are not major errors. They too give a layer of credibility as a real person giving real advice in everyday language. The main thing to remember when talking online is to know what the heck you’re talking about. You can use good grammar, bad grammar, good punctuation and spelling or bad, and none of it will mean anything if you don’t know what you are talking about and are spilling bad advice or dumb comments. You will get called out for that long before you get called out for your speaking style online. Which brings us to point two…
Verify the Facts
The internet is a wealth of information. It’s also a wealth of misinformation. When sharing articles and posts, making sure what you’re sharing corroborates with facts is paramount. You don’t want to spread lies, myths and scams. You sure don’t want to spread bad advice that can hurt other investors or readers. Know what you’re talking about before you talk. On top of it, if you’re using Twitter, make sure you know what the hashtag you’re using means. Let’s just say you can mean one thing and get a call from authorities for another!
There have been many corporate blunders surrounding hashtags that could’ve been solved with some research. A prime example is Digiorno Pizza, who used #WhyIStayed (which was intended to open the conversation around domestic abuse) to promote pizza. It was a PR disaster.
Do your research. If you know how to use social media to promote and you know what in the heck you are talking about, then you can have great success with it.
This one’s easy. Be friendly! Genuine, yes, but friendly. Use a few exclamation marks. Use a smiley here and there. You want people to feel like they can talk to you, ask questions and voice concerns. There’s a line between being professional and being approachable that we all must find.
There are many examples, even on the BP Forums, where people cross the line from helper commenter to online bully. Many have their company logos attached to their profiles and their tag-lines follow them throughout the site.
There will always be disagreements, and when you are talking about a written 2-dimensional medium, there will also be misunderstandings. The best way to protect your image and build your brand, even while disagreeing or defending your position, is to do it nicely and in a respectful way. The same way you would if you were sitting across the table. Now, on that note, if someone was sitting across the table and your go-to strategy is to berate and be rude to them, then you may want to stay off social media (at least for business)!
So, once again, one point leads to the next. Here is number four…
Treat Your Online Reputation Like Your Actual Reputation
Look to any comment section on a popular post or blog, and you’ll probably find more than a handful of people spouting off offensive things. There are internet trolls who attempt to provoke on purpose, and it would be easy to think that everyone on the internet is actually a sociopath. Unfortunately, feeling anonymous can bring out the worst in people. No matter what you’re using social media for, treat your reputation with care. Avoid publicly posting anger and outrage. If you must vent, vent to people in your life you can trust, face-to-face.
When you broadcast something online, people see it, people make judgments and those will stick with you. You can’t take any of it back.
What social skills do you think best translate to social media strategies?
Let us know in the comments.