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People are using the Internet to connect to information, but more importantly, to connect with people. And yet so many people seem totally confused and overwhelmed about the right way to connect through social media channels.
Here are 10 ways to really connect with others through social media:
- Focus, focus, focus. It is so easy to get sucked into the social media vortex, flitting from shiny object to tweet to update to post with a panicky feeling that if you don’t see everything, you might miss something important. Sound familiar? Stop the madness, set strict parameters designating time to review your social media channels, and stick to them. You may miss something, but you will find just what you need to find, especially if you heed the next point.
- Listen attentively. Set up alerts through services such as Google Alerts (s goog), SocialMention and Tweetbeep, or one of the many fee-based monitoring services. Go through your alerts to take care of more pressing conversations where you should be paying attention. Then spend time really listening by reading your streams on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. You don’t have to read everything but what you do read, give it real consideration and look for ways to move to #3.
- Respond meaningfully. If you want to make an impact in these channels, make sure your responses to others are thoughtful. The occasional “ditto” or “uh huh” aside, every response you make — especially if out in the public stream- – is an opportunity for greater connection. Ask yourself: Is what I’m saying relevant? Will it resonate with my friends, fans and followers? If not, then why bother?
- Retweet or share. One of the funny things about us humans is that we love to be recognized. In social media channels, recognition comes in the form of retweets, likes, comments and shares. When any of us publishes something, we want to be noticed. By taking notice and sharing what others have posted, we are giving them kudos. Keep in mind that who you recognize is also a reflection of you.
- Provide value. In your own quest to be noticed and heard, are you giving people a reason to follow you or otherwise connect with you? So many people try to build their Twitter accounts by following a lot of people thinking “oh, they’ll just follow me back” but they haven’t even thought about why someone would want to follow them back. They aren’t yet tweeting or if they are, it is inconsistent and unfocused. The more value you put out there, the more followers you attract.
- Ask questions. I find that some of my best connections happen when I ask questions. People love to help. And then once I receive good answers, I share those with my followers as well because I know others out there may be asking the same questions I am.
- Be transparent. There is always a lot of talk about “transparency in social media,” but what does that really mean? I believe it means starting with honesty and being open; handling even difficult conversations in public as long as the only thing at risk is your own reputation. If you are doing good things, honesty and transparency are not a problem. If not, beware.
- Take your time. We all seem to be in a rush, rush, rush wanting things now, now, now. Calm down. Slow down. You don’t have to hit 500 Twitter followers in your first month out of the gate. You don’t have to have 1,000 or 10,000 people liking your Facebook Page in three months. Sure, it might happen, but you’ll gain more friends, fans, and followers who really care about you by taking your time to care about them. Success in social media is not about accumulation; it’s about meaningful interactions.
- Make connections. We have a job to do. We have something to sell. We are keenly focused on our own goals and objectives in business. But when you enter social media channels, the focus needs to be on everyone you’re trying to reach. While some people will tolerate your broadcasts of news, articles and information — and a few may even welcome them — most people are using Twitter, Facebook, and other networks to make connections with people as well as discover useful information. Embrace those connections.
- Smile. What attracts people? A positive attitude. Even when something goes awry in your Twitterstream or you come across dialogue that feels like a backlash, be positive, thoughtful and look at the situation as an opportunity to showcase your honesty, transparency and caring. Everyone makes mistakes and people are more forgiving of those who own up to their mistakes and to be open to conversations about how to remedy the mistakes. Feel criticized in social media channels? Smile, thank others for their feedback, and think long and hard about what is being said about you or your company. There are lessons to be learned.
Social media channels and tools merely provide us more ways we can connect — they aren’t leading us to entirely new and different things that we’ve never seen before, but they are doing it in interesting, new ways.
How are you really connecting with others through social media?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise