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Social Media Do's and Don'ts

by Matthew Ferrara

Now that social media has firmly lodged itself into our personal and business lives, it's time to turn our attention from the technical aspects to best practices. Like all forms of marketing, there is a growing body of activities that can help you create the results you want from this exciting medium. And because social media continues to evolve, we'll suggest some ideas that will apply both today and tomorrow.

A few things not to do in social media:

1. Don't spread yourself too thin. There's no reason to join every online network, just like you don’t have to join every social organization in town. Find two or three networks that you enjoy using, and show up more frequently and consistently. Consider how you work, too. If you’re mostly mobile, then make sure the networks you join have good smartphone apps so you can "be there" when you're on the go.

2. Don't be just a marketing pamphlet. Even if you join "business only" networks, don't make everything you post a marketing event. Start conversations, join discussions and share content that goes beyond your personal services and inventory. Nobody wants to hang out with a marketing flyer, so keep your marketing activity to a minimum.

3. Don't try to fix the world. Social networking often involves people learning, sharing ideas and expressing opinions. Be careful not to look like you’re always correcting people or disagreeing with them. Sometimes it’s best to just scroll by and find something (or someone) else to interact with today.

4. Don't worry about how "many" friends or followers you have. Instead, focus on how well they get to know you, enjoy interacting with you and benefit from your presence. It's not the size of your network, but the magic you create in it, that matters most.

5. Don't overreact to negative feedback. Social media is one of the most popular new channels of feedback for consumers. They like to post praise, but sometimes they also vent their frustrations. When this happens, don’t overreact. Take a deep breath and ask the customer if you can discuss the issue privately. Then, when you’ve addressed and resolved the issue, you can always return to the social media space to follow up publicly.

A few things to do in social media:

1. Be a real person. Our social networks are the greatest sources of new and repeat business, and clients want to stay connected to important people in their lives. They want to see you successful in all parts of your life – personal and professional – so be sure to find those areas of your life you'll be comfortable sharing online. The opportunity to leverage your personal hobbies, interests and creativity to grow your professional success is one of the most powerful features of any social network.

2. Be as positive as possible. People like to read, see and watch things that leave them feeling better. As much as possible, try to post positive items in social media. This doesn’t mean you can’t post things that make you sad, angry or worried. However, when you do, be careful to not go overboard. Sometimes, it’s just better to keep things offline. On the other hand, if there’s something negative you think your sphere of influence could help you change, then post it and ask for feedback or help. Otherwise, as much as possible, try to leave positive feelings in those people viewing your presence online.

3. Use photos and video. Social media is a very mobile phenomenon, and pictures and video are far easier to deal with than words on small smartphone screens. Plus, visual posts grab attention fast and are more likely to be re-shared by your friends, which increases your presence and helps you meet new people. Sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Etsy prove that social networks that revolve around images can quickly connect people with the same values – and even deliver a lot of business leads.

4. Give thanks. Be sure to show your appreciation to your connections when they help you out. If you ask a question, make sure you thank those who offer answers. Sometimes you can just click “like,” but other times a private note may be in order. Likewise, if you share content and you notice your connections sharing it, be sure to thank them for their support, too. Social networking is very much about the "rewards" of interacting with other people. You can increase the participation of your connections by frequently thanking them for their support.

5. Search for yourself daily. In every social network, you can search for friends, topics and discussion. And you can search for yourself. Search for anyone who might be using your name – sometimes just in text – so you can be aware of any positive (or negative) comments. Keep an eye on your reputation by searching frequently.

No matter which social networks you use, these 10 ideas should help you create an effective and fun presence that maintains relationships and ultimately generates business. Remember, social networking online isn't a whole lot different than when you do it offline: Be yourself, contribute value and be sure to appreciate those people who are willing to hang out with you.

Matthew FerraraMatthew Ferrara is CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Company, an international real estate consulting, management, strategy and sales organization. For more than two decades, Ferrara has been helping top performing brokerages transform their marketing, technology and customer service strategies to create loyal clients and lead the competition in the next generation of real estate business. Learn more at www.matthewferrara.com.

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