By Angela Bickford
Originally guest posted on The Work at Home Woman
I’ve been talking to a lot of wonderful women I’ve met on Twitter about social networking, and there’s one thing we all tend to agree on. It’s not about the numbers; it’s about the relationships you build.
The best definition I have come across to define social networking is from the site WhatIs?:
“Social networking is the practice of expanding the number of one's business
and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals.”
Connections. Not more followers, or fans, or blog readers. But true, honest connections. Now, does this mean I have to talk to, reach out to, reply to, comment on, etc. with every one of my social connections? No. That would be impossible. Learn who your repeat commenters are and engage with them. Try to take some time to recognize when people reach out to you, except of course when it’s spam.
My favorite sites, the ones I use the most often to engage with my network, are Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. To me, this is the holy trinity of social networking. For you, it might be different. There’s My Space, Digg, Linked In (which I do use), and many more. It doesn’t really matter how you connect, rather, it matters that you connect.
Here’s a sample of how I engage with each network:
Facebook: On my Facebook fan page, I engage fans with random questions that aren’t always related to my business, I always comment or like when someone posts on the fan page, and I try to keep the conversation going. I post photos as often as I can, because this is a great medium for sharing your actual product. But, you have to balance it so that you’re engaging your network and not just selling to them.
Twitter: While I consider Facebook geared more towards my interactions with customers, Twitter is more like my pool of colleagues. I’m ok with this because I learn tons from many, varied sources. It’s an invaluable tool. When I first log in each morning, I don’t read the feed right away. I check my @mentions and DM’s and reply to those as needed (because these are people who are engaging with you), and then I check in on a few of my favorite tweeters (lists are great for this, although I just deleted all of mine so I could start over). Only then do I start tweeting out anything about me. More importantly, when I do tweet, most of my tweets are not even about my business! Who really wants to read about sales and new products all the time anyhow? Twitter is more about helping others. Spend time re-tweeting things you find interested – the favor will be returned. Check out my Twitter profile to see what I’m talking about.
Blog: My blog is still a work in progress, I’ll admit it, but it’s getting there. It's actually on hold right now while I focus on this site. It’s based on my business, but I’m not always focused on that. I blog about business tips, my business, my family and pets, random thoughts, and crafting tips. Really, I blog about anything. It’s not a way for me to sell more products; it’s a way for me to tell my network more about who I am. The things I can’t talk about within the limitations of 140 characters or Facebook posts. It’s more personal, more me than the business, and a place for me to get to know my network better. I can’t say enough about comments here. Not only do you want comments on your blog posts, but you should comment back. Make it a conversation. Acknowledge the commenter. Also, part of what makes the blog community work is how you engage with other blogs. Find like minded bloggers and comment on what they have to say on their blogs. It makes it more of a two-way street and you won’t seem like you’re making it all about you.
In the end, your social network is what builds the relationships that will turn customers into friends, browsers into buyers, and will make you stand out as an expert in your field. Use it wisely, for it is a gift that can turn on you quickly if not used properly.