Social networking is more art than science. I try to instruct my clients in social networking techniques,and some have a natural affinity for it while others are, shall we say, socially awkward. Using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter effectively requires a certain knack; a natural affinity for communicating online and keeping your followers engaged while staying on message. Here’s an example of one lady who has that affinity.
I had the privilege of meeting Kathleen Flinn at a book signing a few weeks. Kathleen is the author of two books, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry about her adventure studying at the Cordon Bleu, and her new book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, where she takes a step outside the “food bubble” to help nine homemakers become fearless cooks in their own kitchens. My wife had served as Kathleen’s Bay Area escort on her previous book tour and Kathleen not only remembered her but was genuinely excited to see us at her new book signing, which is what makes her so good at social networking. She is genuinely interested in people and it comes across online.
I have been following Kathleen online for some time and am very impressed with her social media approach. She is not pushy or obnoxious, but maintains a real dialogue with her followers that is sincere, interesting, and always on message. She is interested in all aspects of food, but not as a “foodie” or a food snob, but as good cooking and everyday foods can be transformed into great cuisine by any cook willing to wield a knife. She uses her blog effectively, finding topics that are interesting, personal, and always worth reading. And she uses her blog to feed her Facebook page and other social media to build her following. I, for one, started looking forward to seeing her new book long before it’s release because Kathleen was very good at sharing little insights here and there. She never overly flogs her books, but you always know where she is and what she’s up to, and following her online promotes a level of interest and intimacy I don’t get from many so-called social media experts.
So how do you promote your own social media following? Be genuine, but also avoid being the online boor. Here are some of the basics that everyone needs to remembers about being genuine through social media, with thanks to Aliza Sherman, who originally compiled a variation of this list for GigaOm:
1. Respect the medium. Remember that the Internet is an information tool that was not originally created as a collaboration tool, not a marketing medium. Successful use of the Web requires that you respect the spirit of the Web; it’s about collaboration not hard-sell advertising.
2. Listen. The biggest mistake people make when they use social media is they assume it is a broadcast medium. It’s not. It’s about collaboration and conversation, that that means listening first. Listen to the conversation threads. Determine what is appropriate and what is not. Get a better sense of what people are saying and what the tone of the conversation feels like before you barge in with new information or an expert opinion.
3. Add to the conversation. Don’t just appear, post your piece, and log off. Engage! Add value! Promote conversation within the community. Remember, in most circles, hyping your product or service doesn’t help anyone but you.
4. Be responsive. Remember conversation is continuous. Answer questions. Respond to comments. Be timely in your response. In other words, respect your visitors and followers by actually listening and talking to them.
5. Share with others. The Web is a global medium that allows everyone access to valuable information. Share your information, time, and inspiration to fuel conversation.
6. Credit where credit is due. Share other people’s ideas but give them credit. Repost and retweet to add to the conversation (not to promote spam) and be sure to give credit to the source.
7. Don’t be a spammer. Spam will inevitably isolate you from the conversation. It’s impolite, and it’s dumb. Don’t just hype your wares, but talk about what you know, politely and in the context of the conversation.
8. Be authentic. Authenticity is the key to social media success. If you represent a brand, you can still be authentic in your conversation without violating the integrity of the brand. Just be real. Admit your fears and flaws as well as your successes. Be interesting by being authentic.
9. Collaborate, don’t compete. The idea is to add to the conversation, not to outshout the other guy. Try to find ways to get together to expand the reach of the conversation so everyone benefits. There’s room for everybody.
10. Practice social responsibility. If you do good, you will get good in return. Embrace the authenticity that the web has to offer to not only expand the conversation, but to help others seeking insight and information. Don’t just sell your stuff. Find ways to give back to the greater community by doing good. You can help spread the word and make your corner of the Web a little better.
If you remember these simple guidelines as you engage online, your social media conversations will be more satisfying, and ultimately more profitable. Don’t shout. Engage.