Social media is more than social—it’s professional—and it’s everywhere, including your office. A snapshot of an average workplace on an average day would reveal lots of minimized Facebook pages, employees scrolling through tweets on their phones, and a marketing department hard at work trying to get their company noticed.

No doubt about it, social media has become an integral part of professional life, but one with rapidly evolving rules. The benefits of online networking are great, but the pitfalls are steep, rocky, and rarely forgiving. How can your firm participate in online discourse safely and effectively? Let’s discuss.

Four Things to Remember

There are four critical rules to remember regarding professional networking on social media:

1.    Provide value. 

No one wants spam. If you’re sharing content that makes obvious overtures at self-promotion, you’re likely chasing clients and customers away. Instead of making a hard pitch, simply demonstrate the value you can provide. Before posting, ask yourself, “Does this show value? Or desperation?” 

2.    Put the spotlight on others.

Boost the signals of others. By sharing and retweeting—and even commenting on—the content of your colleagues, partners, and thought leaders in your industry, you’ll demonstrate your interest in their perspectives and challenges. This builds good will and forges deeper connections within your network.

3.    Demonstrate your expertise.

I know what you’re thinking. Won’t demonstration of your expertise break rule number one? No, and here’s why: you’re not pushing a sales pitch across the Web. You’re sharing your expert insights. This is following the very letter of rule one—it’s showing your value. Links to educational content add value to your network and make you a connection worth keeping. There is such a thing as pushing too hard, so make sure your content feels genuinely helpful and avoids aggressive sales pitches or overly promotional language.

4.    Foster conversations.

Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are ideal for engaging in industry conversations. It’s common, for example, for industry leaders to offer marketplace news or discuss current challenges in LinkedIn Groups. Find opportunities to participate in these kinds of conversations, as well as start them. Also, be sure to always seek out the perspectives of your contacts as you offer your own. To make it even easier to engage with your LinkedIn network, LinkedIn has recently launched their Connected App. It not only offers relevant notifications and updates within your network, but also provides pre-meeting intelligence to help you connect with clients and collaborators more deeply during work.

Value and relevance

Social networking takes more than indiscriminate following or posting. Today’s professionals must be thoughtful and respectful of their network’s purpose. To form and maintain solid connections, it’s important to demonstrate interest in other’s perspectives and challenges, as well as be forthcoming and genuine about your own. Professionals must be generous with their expertise, offering educational content and helpful comments within online discussions.

Following these rules will keep you relevant to your network—including potential clients and customers. This will solidify your place within your networks and demonstrate the value that you can provide—online, as well as off.

 

Lee W. Frederiksen

Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached

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