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1461563_10151755347709087_889403781_nI had the honor of co-facilitating a discussion on networking and social media today at the offices of the Austin Business Journal. Presenting with me were two colleagues who are also networking authors and speakers: Thom Singer and Marny Lifshen.

Wish you’d been there as there was some excellent discussions, ideas, opinions, and insights exchanged.

We discussed whether social media has enhanced our ability to connect over the last 10 years – or has detracted from it.  Also discussed were best (and worst) social media practices.   Here are some tidbits from that discussion that might be helpful to you. I know I learned a lot!

  1. Starting today, create a vision, strategy, and some intentional social media policies. Which social media will you use? Even more importantly, why, how, when, and how often will you use them? What will be your do’s and don’t’s? Will you use them for personal or professional connecting?  Or both?  What are you trying to accomplish / make happen?
  2. Honor what connection really is.  For example, I don’t accept friend requests on Facebook unless I’ve actually had a one-on-one visit with you.  Ditto LinkedIn.  I find it rather presumptious that someone I don’t even know wants to tap into my greatest business asset, my network. (Is it just me?) Twitter is different for me; I’ll follow anyone who sounds interesting and isn’t obnoxious with their tweets.   Twitter is a river of information that I want to surf on. It’s just different, so I use it differently. (You?)
  3. As with coffee, the slow, regular drip is most effective.  Don’t send out a flurry of posts then disappear. This is difficult to do and requires discipline. I still struggle with this. But it works if you are trying to build visibility, likability, credibility and trust.
  4. Words alone are weak. Data suggests that only 6% of any given exchange is about the words.  You could argue, then, that a tweet or a post is missing out on 94% of the potential impact of any given message or exchange. Things like appearance, body language, tone and inflection of voice, facial expressions, demeanor, etc.  are sadly missing.
  5. There is nothing quite like a face-face-interaction, is there? The next best thing is a voice-to-voice interaction.  For me, social media is a highly convenient and efficient way to supplement other forms of staying in touch, but it’s not an equal substitution.
  6. There are exceptions to the rules and statements above. I have made some delightful and highly valuable friendships and associations via social media.  In some cases, I’ve met these connections in person (say, at conferences or meetings), which was great. Sort of like having pen pals that you eventually get to meet.   Others I’m hoping to meet in person someday.
  7. Let’s remember to be present.  I had coffee with a new friend recently and was completely turned off by the fact that he could not stay off his phone for more than 30 seconds.  It can get addicting to be “connected” 24/7 but it’s really just an illusion.  You can have thousands of “friends” but be the loneliest, most isolated person in the world.
  8. Social media is not a flash-in-the-pan. This means all you lurkers, creepers, and conscientious objectors out there:  time to get with it and step it up!  Ease into it, ask your social media savvy friends for help. You can do it. And you can do it well.
  9. Most important tip of all:  Think before you post.  We’ve all done it: posted a statement, photo or link that may not have been in good taste, relevant to our audience/friends, or even necessary.  And the wine we just ingested has blurred our judgment or good taste. Or we become so full of ourselves that we post every little thought going through our minds.  Really, why should anyone give a rip? Think relevance and value.  Be thoughtful, gracious, kind.  When in doubt, hit the pause button and allow your internal editor, conscience, or filter have a chance to veto anything you are about to post.  Sure we live in a country where we have freedom of expression, but just because you can say it or post it, it doesn’t mean you should.
  10. Become more skilled at the face-to-face connecting, interactions and relationships and you’ll ace the social media stuff, too.  I know a great book that can help you there (wink).

Hoping these tips and thoughts are helpful to you. Maybe you have some ideas on how you’ve combined good old fashioned, face-to-face networking and social media? And I’m guessing you have opinions and even pet peeves on what you wish others would or would not do with social media.  Is social media enhancing how you connect? Or does it put a wedge between you and the people you are actually with? Let’s get this discussion rolling!