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Navigating the Social Media Cocktail Party

In his best-selling 2007 book The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott likens social media to a cocktail party.

If you're just going to have a good time, that's one thing. But if you're going to the cocktail party to network, there are basic etiquette rules that apply. The same follows on social media: Because the audience of social media channels is much greater than attendance at the average cocktail party, it's even more important to present yourself effectively. Still, many of the same rules apply:

  • Check out the lay of the land. Observe how other people are behaving, and take your cues from them. Social media requires some finesse—watch and learn before jumping in headfirst. Take note of how often others are posting and commenting, and don't over- or under-do it. Notice the length of their posts, formality of language, and other cues about acceptable participation.
  • Nobody likes a bore. Just as you would (hopefully) not repeat the same line or story over and over again at a party, make sure your social media posts are original. No re-posting the same tired statement, hoping that people will "like" or "re-tweet" the third time around.
  • Be intentional. Before a cocktail party, you might check out the guest list and identify whom you want to meet, instead of randomly mingling. Likewise, friend, follow, and otherwise connect with people on social media channels who are relevant to what you do. Occasionally commenting on their posts, "favoriting" their tweets, or otherwise being involved will keep you on their radar.
  • Make new friends. Do a little research to expand your circle of contacts. Reach out to share ideas, ask questions, and make genuine connections.
  • Reflect your personal brand. Take the time to craft posts that are true to the characteristics you wish to project, and who you are as a person.
  • Connect on a personal level. Just as it's nice to have someone you've met before remember your name and something about you when you meet again in a social situation, it's nice to receive customized communication on social media. When you send an invitation to connect, include a personalized message reminding the person what you have in common or how you met. It's more likely to generate a response than a canned "Please add me to your network."
  • Be relevant. Share links to articles that could be useful to others in your field, or might inspire an online conversation.
  • Be positive. Notice how the funny people are the life of the party, and those who will talk your ear off complaining about XYZ are avoided at all costs? The same goes for social media.

Written by: Jennifer Reynolds is the staff writer for West Michigan Woman.


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