The first rule of Social Media, regardless of whether you use it for personal or professional purposes, is:
Social Media is a tool for respectful relationships and dialogue in which both parties bring value to each other on matters of mutual interest.
Now, here are the key words:
MATTERS OF MUTUAL INTEREST
What does this mean in practice? I will start backwards:
MATTERS OF MUTUAL INTEREST – these are topics and themes that you know the other person would be interested in; it could also be that you are communicating with a specialist in a field for which you don’t know too much so then you have to pinpoint how your expertise can be useful to the other party. Thus, if you know that the person is interested in eco-transport, probably trying to talk to them (or sell them) a high-consumption car, would not be your best bet. Even if you do not have a reciprocal topic to contribute if you are asking the advice of someone over social networks, then you can always keep them in mind if you come across interesting information in the field. If you fail to find matters of mutual interest your online communication is bound to failure.
VALUE – whatever you decide to bring to the attention to the other person you have to first answer the question “What is in it for them?” and base your selection on that. For example, if you got to know someone over a social network and you know they are looking for a job in Paris the most logical thing would be to send them job offers given that you come across one. This is a great way to remind the other person about yourself while bringing value to them. However, sending job offers for work in Lyon, would probably be just as “spammy” (and thereof useless and annoying) as if you were sending them renting offers in India.
DIALOGUE – a dialogue implies that you speak and then you LISTEN to what the other person has to say. May be (and I am certainly not convinced!) an initial contact general “template” letter could be acceptable, yet from that point on all the communication should be personal. Listen to what the other person is telling you and do not just go in sending your templates one after the other. If you ask from the other person to take of his time to listen to you and to respond to your needs then you should be ready and even eager to do the same. Social media is not television – where the screen speaks and you use the break to go to the bathroom. When the screen in social media talks to you that means that you have someone on the other side who is listening and willing to respond. You can only do the same thing.
RELATIONSHIPS – Relationship development take time and special attention that is exactly what you are expected to give to the other side. Do not go rushing in with a business proposal before you even said your name. Get to know the other side, listen to what they have to say, discover common grounds and enjoy spending time talking to each other about them. Now, you might say – “Well it’s a virtual relationship, I’m not proposing marriage”. Very true, but how many of us have learnt that the core in business is trust and building a strong and loyal relationship with your business partner? And if this is the case, then treat it as such. Moreover if you go bombarding people with an aggressive one-way business proposal without any personal contact, chances are your letter at best will be left on the “for later” pile… and later never comes (it’s kind of like that “next week” when you are supposed to start your diet coz).
RESPECTFUL – this is the NUMBER ONE thing that all should have when communicating on Social Media. It goes back to the same thing – if someone takes the time to pay attention to you then you owe him that (and it’s a minimum). I just went to a meeting with someone I met on LinkedIn because he said that he had that great idea for me. I did my background check, the person came back with really positive recommendations and so I went to the meeting really excited and motivated. Turned out he had invited 2 other people (that I had never seen before in my life) to that meeting to present them with the same idea. We had to do the meeting in Spanish because the other people did not speak English (nothing against Spanish it is just a question of principle). Further, instead of talking to us, that person decided to put on a ridiculous promotional video presenting a product without giving us any prior explanation except that “Template 1” letter and an invitation. All of us 3 had taken out of our private time (or have cancelled other appointments) to give that person individual attention and consideration. All of us had decided that that person deserved the respect of being given our full attention as he had decided to contact us, exclusively (or that’s what we would think in the end…). This was not respectful, it was not polite and it was by far the least productive meeting I had ever attended. That person obviously chose us for a reason – he liked us, he decided we can be useful business partners to him, he thought we have valuable knowledge and expertise. He spent the time sending us emails and arranging the meeting (be it that both were “templates”). But his lack of respect for our time and attention and his determination to push a product down our throat is why he lost all 3 connections.
Let’s just make sure you remember – the key rule to Social Media is: