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The Rules of Social Networking

Social network sites are where everyone is hanging out. According to a 2009 MarketTools report, 7 out of 10 Americans use social networking sites. “Small businesses can dominate if they embrace social networking as part of their marketing strategy”, says web strategist Lorrie Thomas, but in order to effectively dominate social media, you have to follow some rules.

Social media is all about making friends, so you should approach it as if you were trying to make friends in real life. The same things that you wouldn’t do if you wanted to make a friend in real life apply to making friends with people online through social media.

Set Realistic Goals
You can be easily overwhelmed if you try to use every social networking site out there. Although there are several ways to link social networks so you can send updates to multiple places, it’s impossible to be at two places at once. As much as you might like to be at two different parties on the same night, you sometimes have to pick and choose. Social networking is the same way. If you want to be an active participant, you have to pick and choose the ones that work best for you.
Determining what you are using social networking for can greatly help you find the best networks for your business. Are you selling products? Looking to build relationships? Just want feedback? Figure out what you are looking to do and determine which social network will fit best.

Follow the Rules

Every club you join has a certain set of rules you must follow. You need to show up and be ready to participate. Social media “clubs” are the same way. Just like a real life club, people expect you to be an active member of social media networks. That means you need to post regularly, share information, and be helpful. Social networks are not just a place to post non-stop press releases and links to your website. Have you ever been around a person that never stopped talking about themselves? After awhile, it gets annoying, right? If the only thing you ever talk about on your social networks is you, people will get annoyed. Have you ever been part of a group that had a member who rarely showed up or contributed? You tend to not like that person after a few meetings. If you don’t post anything to your social network for weeks, people will feel like you’re not contributing and won’t want you in the club.

If someone posted a question you feel you can answer, go ahead and answer it. Share links to resources you find useful. Comment on what other people have to say. Engage in some actual conversations. If you follow the rules of your social network, you’ll gladly be accepted into the club.

Open up, but don’t share too much
The best part about social networking is that it allows you to meet people that you probably wouldn’t have ever met in real life. In order to meet people, you need to be open. If you don’t share a little information about yourself, it defeats the purpose of social media. Not adding your email address or a photo is like meeting someone for the first time and refusing to tell that person your name. You need to share some information so people can connect with you.
On the other hand, don’t share too much. You don’t want to offend people. Think twice about posting your personal beliefs, political affiliations, or jokes that people might find inappropriate. Assume that everyone you know will read what you are posting.

Listen before you talk
When you first join a social network, it is like being the new kid in class. If you’re the new kid, in order to make some friends, you have to figure out what it is that those people are into and see where you fit in. If you went on and on about how great you were without first listening to what people said, you more than likely would be perceived as rude and full of yourself.

When you first join a social network, it is best to listen to what other people are saying, then add your own commentary where you see fit. Subscribe to blogs in your field of interest and comment on posts you find useful. Follow relevant people on Twitter or Facebook and listen to what they are saying. Figure out what it is that people are talking about and when appropriate, show them what you know.
Just like in real life, in order to make friends on social networks, you have to follow some guidelines. By following these rules, you can boost your business and people from all over the world know what you have to offer. Treat your social networking friends the same way you would treat people in real life and you will dominate!

What social networks do you prefer to use?

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