The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Networking for Professionals

By Tracey Dowdy

Navigating the waters of social networking can seem more fraught with peril than avoiding Somali pirates. Whether you’re an employee, a small business owner, or you run a multi-national corporation, cultivating and maintaining best practices in social networking is essential in today’s marketplace. Staying on top of what’s trending and how social media is constantly evolving is critical to your continued success.

These simple tips can help you get started or act as a check list for what you’re already doing.

Do separate the professional from the personal. This may seem obvious but photos of your kids, what you had for dinner last night, and your opinion of who should get voted off the island belong on your personal page. Your professional page is all about your brand. Have a clear vision of who you are and stick to that. Be that guy.

Do complete your profiles. If you don’t have time to complete your profile on LinkedIn how are you going to have time to take on a project for a client? First impressions are very important, so make it a priority to go through your social network accounts and ensure they’re complete.

Do keep your profiles up to date. Have you taken additional training? Moved beyond your original market? Changed your logo? Keep your profiles up to date and uniform. Again, it’s all about branding. You want to be consistent.

Do engage with your followers. Sites like HootSuite and PostPlanner are great for helping you consistently upload fresh content to sites like Facebook and Twitter but don’t rely on them exclusively. The key to social networking is in the name – social. There are lots of places on the web to gather news and information but your followers want to hear from you.

Don’t stay in your own bubble. Reach out to your followers. Endorse them on LinkedIn. Share content they’ve posted on Facebook. Retweet them. Endorsement demonstrates you value them as a client or peer and strengthens both your credibility and your network.

Do create a feeling. Social media is all about creating a feeling. Polar bears are actually quite deadly and the only animals that actively hunt humans. Geckos have nothing to do with insurance and garden gnomes don’t travel abroad. Yet those beautiful polar bears have made you choose Coke over Pepsi; that cheeky gecko has boosted sales for Geico; and that roaming gnome – who has his own Twitter account I might add – has achieved cult status for himself as well as significant market share for Travelocity. Never underestimate the power of feelings.

Don’t post without proofreading. Mistakes in spelling and grammar will make you look totally unprofessional. If spelling isn’t your strong suit, remember spell check is everyone’s friend, but even then be wary and check your work. As an example, my co-worker recently posted an endorsement of our colleague Elisabeth on our corporate Facebook page by describing her as having a “sweet and genital nature”. Suffice to say, proofreading is important.

#Don’tAbuseOrOveruseHashtags Tweets with hashtags perform twice as well as those without but don’t get carried away. Twitter itself recommends no more than two hashtags in a tweet but on Instagram, the rule seems to be the more the merrier. In fact, posts with eleven or more hashtags seem to do the best. But over on Facebook the rules change again as posts without hashtags rank the highest.

Do give credit where credit is due. Heard a clever quote? Found a brilliant marketing hack? Read a great article filled with valuable tips on social networking? Then by all means tell your followers but don’t forget to credit your source. Not only will it boost your credibility, you’ll have expanded your peer network by mentioning the author or creator of that content. On the other hand, presenting work as your own when it was created by someone else is plagiarism.

Don’t forget to have fun. Remember, social media is all about engagement and making connections. Stick to your brand and be professional but don’t be dry and boring. Be yourself and be conversational. Again, marketing and networking are all about relationships. Curate your online presence, be real, be relevant, and have fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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