Be absolutely clear about what you want to achieve through social networks, and think before you post. Always.

 
 

"So, tell me about your day..."

This phrase has taken on a whole new meaning since the arrival of social networks. And it was a particularly spectacular example that got me thinking about how people use them.
 
Let’s call them 'person on a business trip' (POBT). The name has been changed to protect the guilty; suffice it to say it was somebody we were considering working with.
 
So what are we to take from the relentless barrage of posts that take over our Linkedin and Twitter feeds from POBT over the course of a day (and night)? And I mean relentless.
 
I thought everyone knew that divulging the contents of your breakfast/lunch/evening meal is one of the biggest status update faux pas you can make? But even that didn't stop this ferocious twit(terer).
 
Over the course of a day I learned - among MANY other things - that they had muesli for breakfast; that their taxi to the airport was on time (it would have been more helpful if you’d named the taxi firm so I could have looked them up next time I’m on an airport run); and that it took them over an hour to get through security (the majority no doubt spent with security guards trying to wrestle an iPhone from a vice-like grip).
 
I also heard their furious reaction to a delayed flight (hmmm, you do get easily flustered. Maybe when a last minute job drops in I'll go to someone who can take it in their stride).
 
And so it went on. And on. And on. Did I really want to know when they were going to sleep? Actually, yes; if it meant some respite from the onslaught.
 
Of course, I did the decent thing. Unfollowed. LinkedOut. And I can honestly say that the experience really did change my view of working with them.
 
This is where social networks are no different to any other communication activity and those three little words - know your audience - come into play.
 
Who's following your tweets? Who are you LinkedIn to? Who are your Facebook friends? Put yourself in their shoes. Do they really want to hear what you're about to say? Are they going to think more favourably of you (and your business) as a result?
 
Yes, social networks open up new and exciting communication channels. They give you the opportunity to show the 'human face' of your business, to circulate information in bite sized chunks, to engage with people and businesses all over the world and to join in the conversation.
 
And that's fantastic.
 
But people are judging you, and - if you are tweeting under your business brand – they will also judge your company, on what you say. Our advice would be to:
 
  • Be absolutely clear about what you want to achieve through social networking.
 
  • Select your 'tools' accordingly.
 
  • Think before you post. Always.
 
  • Engage. Join in the conversation on topics that interest you; share useful information and insights with others; and share your knowledge and expertise, too.
 
  • Try and keep the self-indulgent status updates, posts and tweets to a minimum. We all do it from time to time, and people are generally forgiving - but only to a point.
 
As for POBT, I do hope they got back from their trip safe and sound. I'm in no doubt that if I'd carried on following I would know only too well, but life's too short. There are so many people out there with genuinely interesting things to say. They’re the ones who'll be staying on my Twitter and LinkedIn lists.
 
    
 
The Partners Group

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