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September 18, 2017
How To

How to: Make social media part of your networking strategy

Nancy Marshall

Some believe social media is ruining our personal relationships. I believe the opposite. Thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms, we are able to stay connected to a much larger network of people. It contributes to our sense of community and belonging. When it comes to business, it makes it easier to build a high level of the "know, like, trust" equity among those you want to count among your clients and supporters.

Your social media content is a steady reminder of who you are, what's important to you and the values you represent, which is also known as your personal brand. By putting yourself out there on social media, you stay top of mind with those in your circle. Think about how much time this would take if we had to rely solely on personal meetings to do our networking? That one-on-one contact is still a very important part of the picture, but social media makes it much easier to keep those personal connections alive.

I have been active on Facebook for a decade and have reconnected with friends from my various schools and from all phases of my adult life. Some of these have led to business. Others have led to wonderful reunions. Using social media has broadened my network, encouraged people to seek me out because of my interests and expertise, and brought new clients to my agency. It's sometimes called social capital and it improves your life in countless ways.

Here are five basic methods I employ to harness social media as a tool for business networking:

  • Choose a select number of social media platforms to focus on: It's better to create a really solid presence on a limited number of platforms than trying to establish yourself on all of them. This way, you can really focus on your content and building your following. Facebook is the largest platform by far, so probably a good place to start. LinkedIn is the most professional, so if you just want to share professionally, start there.
  • Post regularly but not too often: If you rarely post, people will forget you exist. If you do it too often, followers may become frustrated by your posts overcrowding their feeds. I generally post no more than two times a day (unless I've got something really interesting to share) and no less than three times a week.
  • Curate your content: Think about how you want people to see you, and craft posts to reflect that. For example, it's a good idea to stay away from off-color jokes and inflammatory statements.
  • Use a mix of personal and professional content: Share your expertise and achievements as a businessperson, but it's equally important to share who you are outside of work. Remember, people like to do business with those they know, like and trust. To establish that kind of rapport, you have to share a little bit of yourself.
  • Like, share and comment on the posts of your followers: They don't just want to see and read about all the exciting things you are doing. They want to know you take a personal interest in their endeavors too.

Investing time in building your social media presence can have a big pay-off for business. It has the potential to bring new prospects to your door, and it makes it possible to stay connected to the many people you meet in a business and socially.

An important thing to remember is that social media was never intended to take the place of personal relationships. It is meant to be used as a tool to strengthen and maintain them.

Nancy Marshall, CEO of Nancy Marshall Communications, a PR agency specializing in tourism, health care and education, can be reached at nmarshall@marshallpr.com

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