The past few years have witnessed an explosion in social networking. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and others offer venues for personal and professional communication. Here are just a few mind boggling statistics:
- Facebook topped 1 billion users in October 2012; half of them check in daily to share or read content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.).
- Twitter handles 400+ million tweets per day.
- LinkedIn reported nearly 2 billion people searches in 2010. The current member list tips 100 million.
- 175+ million professionals share connections, ideas, and opportunities on LinkedIn.
Social networking is a phenomenon that’s too big to ignore and too important to engage haphazardly.
There are plenty of folks who salivate at the prospect of using these venues to stand on their corporate “soap boxes” and sell their wares. But social networking doesn’t look kindly upon those whose only interest is self-promotion. People want trusted friends and colleagues, not “circus barkers.”
As you craft your social networking strategy, here are a few guidelines to inform your thinking:
- Social media is all about the users – their interests, their voice, their desire to connect. They want information, interaction, and entertainment on their terms before they’ll be open to a corporate pitch.
- The community wants to contribute. They’re ready, willing and able to “crowd source” answers or provide constructive feedback and advice.
- Participants expect a personal connection. They want to interact with “Bob,” not a nameless, faceless corporation.
- Users expect transparency. When they ask questions, they expect straight answers. If there’s bad news, better to break it yourself – with an appropriate action plan – than wait to be found out and suffer the wrath of the public forum.
- Users expect immediate responses. If you’re going to be a player, you need to keep an ear to the ground and be prepared to enter the conversation with enthusiasm, useful commentary, and a bit of good humor.
You don’t have to be everywhere, and you certainly don’t need a presence in channels for which there is no inherent customer need or interest. But you will need to be fully present in the channels that you choose to support. Quality trumps quantity if you’re trying to build a successful community.