It’s no secret that success in business is about relationships – with customers, prospects, partners, employees and investors. An emotional connection with these audiences breeds loyalty and tolerance, creating an environment in which an organization can rise above obstacles and thrive.
This is one of the reasons why social media has such a profound and positive affect on the prospects of a business. It extends the real world relationship building process to an online environment, allowing for scalability and cost efficiencies.
And like traditional avenues of relationship building – such as power lunches, industry events and networking sessions – the sharing of appropriate personal information helps foster connections in social networks.
Here are a few best practices we have employed at Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) to inject the right amount of personality into online business networking:
1. Be authentic about your passions. My colleague Chris Parente’s “Work, Wine and Wheels” blog is a wonderful example. He seamlessly weaves his enthusiasm for fine dining, wine and everything BMW with his knowledge of technology and telecom trends to create an enjoyable and unique read.
2. Spend time observing and listening, not merely telling. By following the tweets, Facebook updates and group affiliations of key contacts you’re often able to construct a profile of their interests and hobbies. Are they passionate about their alma mater’s football team? Are they all about family and children? Where do they vacation?
This insight can prove valuable as you seek to cultivate a personal connection, rather than merely being tagged a vendor interested in hawking a product or service.
3. Steer clear of the big three: sex, religion and politics. These issues are simply too combustible and present an unacceptable risk to a positive relationship-building process.
Consider the flack college football star Tim Tebow has experienced for appearing in a television ad for a conservative, pro-life organization. Branding and sports marketing experts are now actively debating how much (not if) Tebow has sullied his prospects for future sponsorships.
I posed the Tebow question to my own social network and received a set of fervent responses:
“Tebow is very religious, has spent time on missions and likely would be picky about the products he ultimately endorses. Conversely, even before Tebow's decision to appear in this ad, only certain companies would have sought out Tebow because of his image. For instance, I wouldn't have expected the makers of Axe products to seek out Tebow.”
“What courage! How refreshing: He does not care about the $, rather he is standing up for what he thinks is right. It's admirable…I just watched some pro choicer on TV describing the ad as "hatred," and "not appropriate for the spirit of fair play as symbolized by the Super Bowl. Even though no one has seen the ad outside of Focus on the Family, this commentator has in his ignorance concluded it hatred.”
“Seriously, is it possible that a pro can cheat on his wife a thousand times (even if it is due to sex addiction) and only jeopardize a few of his endorsements, but someone cannot be pro-life in public without jeopardizing future endorsements? In December, Time magazine wrote: ‘Woods, who earns more than $100 million annually in endorsements, could actually become more valuable after this mess.’
Like I said, sex…religion…and politics…simply too combustible.