Social media gives us an unparalleled opportunity to interact on a one to one basis with friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers – in fact anybody at all. If you are into social media for commercial purposes you need to think how your communications influence all these different audiences and whether your communications with one audience has an unintended consequence for the perceptions of the others.
Take a simple example. When I was at University my parents had to make a contribution to my costs. I was very aware that it was a struggle for them and I was enormously grateful. Every week I would ring home to tell them about life at university, but they would receive the edited highlights. They would hear about my tutorials, my sports and the worthy events I had been involved in. They got an edited version of the truth that they wanted to hear.
Now the boot is on the other foot. My first daughter is at university but as well as the regular phone calls, which are eerily reminiscent of my own, she still (trustingly) gives me access to her facebook account so I receive regular updates of her party life and long sunny days spent punting on the Cherwell with no reference at all to all the hard work. As a marketing exercise it’s not brilliant on her part but, of course, the facebook pages are not there for my benefit, they are there to communicate with her many friends what a great time she is having at university.
However, similar principles must surely apply to our own communications via twitter, facebook, linkedin etc. Are they chit chat with our friends and colleagues (I still find it odd to see one half of conversations on peoples twitter accounts), are we wanting to demostrate our expertise to potential clients, or do we see them as a sales lead generator. What we say will be very different to different audiences. One way to do it is to have different accounts for different aspects of your lives and let people self-select what aspect of you they wish to follow, but this can be complex to manage.
If you are using social media for business networking you must remember it is still marketing. You are putting out into the public domain an image of yourself and your company that you think will be appealing to potential customers and other stakeholders. You need to ensure that your communications are consistent and make sure that your other input into the world of social media is carefully controlled.
One of my daughter’s friends decided he didn’t want his parents to see what came up about him on Facebook so he blocked them, little realising that all the photos were still available through his public profile. Similarly we use a little bit of software called Xobni to assist our use of MS Outlook. As well as managing conversations in helpful ways, Xobni also pulls pictures of people corresponding to the email address from relevant social media. You would be amazed how many people’s rather inappropriate Facebook profile pictures appear, totally changing our perspective of that highly professional newspaper editor or business executive.
Social media gives us all the opportunity to interact with our commercial and social environments in ways which are a wonderful blessing but unless we plan that interaction and understand the technology we are using, we may communicate things that we do not intend.