In the age of social media it is almost impossible to operate without some type of online presence. From Facebook to Twitter, businesses are engaging customers like never before and often finding themselves in uncharted territory. To that end most business professionals have jumped onto social networking with the same fervor, so I ask the question is how does it affect your opinion of other professionals? My favorite is LinkedIn although I have seen some networking sins there as well. Negative first impressions are hard to overcome, so here are some areas to be aware of when participating in social networking.
Snarky Comments Live Indefinitely
I’ve noticed that there is a tendency to hide behind the computer on social networking sites and that is a bad idea. TThe first thing to realize is that the comment lives on indefinitely even when the discussion is over; a rule to live by is if you wouldn’t say it in person don’t say it in the discussion. I have seen many professional discussions disintegrate into name calling and personal attacks and that’s just bad business. Like it or not when you participate in the discussions you are representing your company, so keep the snarky comments out of it.
Contribute to the Discussion
I have been part of discussions that have morphed into sales pitches left and right with you thinking, ‘what just happened?’ The danger of professional social networking sites is that everyone is a potential customer and some people just cannot help themselves, they must pitch their product or service. The most meaningful potential client relationships have come out of adding value to the conversation either through knowledge or conscientious objection. Pointing out that you think you’re smarter than everyone else or questioning the validity of the discussion rarely leaves you looking good.
Use the Discussion to Create a Solution
The discussion boards on Linkedin create a unique situation that you often don’t have in your day to day business; the discussions invite different points of view and allow you to propose solutions without the pressure of having to make a sale. This is professional gold as far as I am concerned, because you get to be innovative and you get to provide real solutions. I often find that a discussion response ultimately shapes my opinion of a professional more so than their profile. It tells me how they think, how they respond to people who are less informed, how they give knowledge and whether they alienate people for asking questions. If they welcome the opportunity to share, I tend to see them in a much more positive light and would be more willing to put them in front of a client.
Social networking is a great business tool providing access to people, companies and information that we would have a pretty hard time getting to. Like everything it can be misused, how does it shape your perception?