While it is true that people do business with people, there is a line you don’t want to cross. 'Social' doesn’t mean talking about any, and every, thing. There is a professional way to be social.
Wherever we choose to interact online we should err on the side of professionalism. This means considering what we are posting, where we are interacting and what we hope to achieve.
Some social media platforms have opportunities for businesses and people to participate. Take Facebook, for example: You can have a personal profile where you connect with friends and family. You can also have a business page, where you engage with customers and prospects. Both have value. The difference is this—you don’t want to talk a lot about business on your personal profile. And, you don’t want to talk about personal things on your business page.
When you have a meeting with a prospect, or a client, how personal do you get? Probably not very, unless you know him or her well. That same level of professionalism should be used online. Building business relationships is a process. We build them with respect, patience and curiosity.
Use each platform the way it is meant to be used. LinkedIn is a professional site. There is no opportunity to post personal information here. This is a place to build business relationships. Remember, you can communicate privately on any social media platform. When you are publicly posting, respect the platform you are on. Ensure your posts are proper for the audience.
Relationships take time. Be patient with the process of building. Assuming you have a deeper relationship too early into the process can backfire. An example of this is connecting with someone and then trying to pitch them on your product or service. Social media is not the place for fast sales pitching. As a matter of fact, it’s the best way to alienate people.
Following the idea that relationship building happens over time, you can use social media platforms to assist you in the process. Once you connect with someone online you can suggest a phone call or short meeting so you can get to know them better. You can share something you find interesting with them and engage in conversation over time.
The question to ask is, “Why are you connecting with someone?” The answer should be, “To build a relationship with them.” The answer isn’t, “To sell them something.” Gaining a sale happens once you’ve earned trust. Trust happens over time. So, if you focus on building the relationship, instead of the sale, you’ll not only gain a sale where it makes sense, but you’ll probably gain a great referral source.
One of the most important skills is curiosity. And I mean, real, intentional interest in others. When you are curious about people, events and ideas, you will always act with an eye toward learning, not selling. This will also help you keep your interactions professional.
We run into trouble when we try to get others to buy from us. We can confuse how social we should be. Crossing that line can do real damage to our reputation, and therefore our efforts to connect. Ask yourself the question, “What does that other person want to know?” If you engage online with a focus on what matters to others you will surely maintain a proper level of professionalism. Your 'social' will be on the right track. The results will be what you are looking for. And the relationships you build will serve your business over time.
Diane Helbig is owner of Seize This Day Coaching.