After a number of recent conversations with people who are wary of Social Media, it occurred to me that something important had never been said to these people.
When you use Social Media, people you don't know will begin to listen to you...and that's a *good* thing.
You want this. This is the way you build your audience. The more you talk with people, the more people will talk with you.
Here's a few Dos and Don'ts for effective Social Media relationship-building
1) Let People You Don't Know Follow You.
Don't waste time going through your Followers/Fans/Friends/Connections weeding out people you don't know. Every single new face is an opportunity. (Spammers are an exception, but unless they are actively filling your inbox or feed with ads, ignore them.)
2) Follow People You Do Not Know
Take five minutes one morning and type in your business keywords into the Twitter or Facebook or MySpace search. Look for people who talk about your keywords and groups that are interested in your keywords....even competitors in your space. Friend/follow them. You want to be able to at least *listen* to what they have to say. Consider it free competitive intelligence.
Every person you connect with/friend/follow is a new relationship waiting to be built. Perhaps a new sale down the line. Perhaps a new vendor. You won't know until you talk with them.
3) Jump Into Conversations
Don't worry that it seems kind of rude to answer a Tweet from one person to another person. It's perfectly fine to jump in and add some comment of value. In fact, it's a great way to meet more than one person at a time, if a number of folks are in that conversation.
4) Turn Off Email Notifications
One of the most vexing things about Social Media is the way that every little comment, response and event clutters up your email box. Before you jump into significant Social Media use, turn those notifications off. Use Facebook to get your Facebook notifications, and Twitter to see your feed. Keep these out of your email box and you're guaranteed to have less clutter in your Social Media life.
1) Fear the unknown.
In Social Media, the unknown is your friend. It's is the legendary "white space" of ideas, of connections, of relationships. You don't yet know who you will meet, or what ideas you will get, and you won't know, unless you fearlessly jump into conversations and try it out.
2) Keep things tidy.
Too many companies want to control what kinds of things that can be seen on their Social Media space. They don't follow people, so the only communications are theirs. This creates a sterile, unfriendly environment. Let people talk! Let them chat amongst themselves and when you need to weigh in with clarification or comment - do. Social Media is not a hospital lab, it's a playground. Get dirty. Make mud pies...and friends.
Social Media is a conversation. When you talk, people will talk with and listen to you. Talk more, listen more. Don't try to keep your feed/page noise free. Encourage noise and encourage signal. Engage your followers/fans and encourage them to engage with you.