When you stop to think about it, the rules of social networking are really about being a good person—basic human behavior that even a child can understand. Most of what small business leaders need to know about being "social" online, they learned in kindergarten.
1. Share with others. Make sure that what you’re doing on social sites is worth sharing. People need to find personal value in online communities to keep coming back. Provide information that helps people to solve a problem or teaches them something new vs. just pushing your product.
2. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Even online, people still want to know that they are creating a relationship with another person, not a business. Be human and personable in your conversations. Listen and respond as if you’re chatting face-to-face. Be a resource, not a sales pitch.
3. Be curious and explore. You can’t just build a community platform or blog and expect customers to come. Figure out where your customers are already conversing and join in. It may be scary at first but then it becomes fun. Remember: There’s no single best social networking tool for all businesses and marketers. Keep trying new things.
4. When you make a mistake, say you’re sorry. Nobody’s perfect. You will make some mistakes along the way, but if you own up to them in a genuine fashion, people will forgive you. Showing your humanity, especially online, can build trust.
5. Listen. Many businesses see social media as a broadcasting tool, but there is much to learn if you just stop and listen. Think of it as having a glass against the doors of your customers and prospects 24/7. You’ll learn something new (and maybe even surprising) every day.
Vice-President of Product Marketing
Want to improve the way you run your business? Entrepreneurs, academics, and consultants from diverse industries offer practical advice on a variety of topics each business day.
To submit a tip for consideration, first check our archive of previous tips to make sure you're not repeating a tip someone has already contributed. Then send the tip to Small Business channel contributor Michelle Dammon Loyalka. Because of the volume of material she receives, she may not respond to each individual.