When it comes to social networking, it's easy to share too much or too little.
As technology expands, it is becoming increasingly crucial to be involved in social networking on some level. Whether used for marketing purposes, fundraising, a virtual rolodex or to connect with coworkers, in many industries it is expected that businesspeople network online.
For those who already get anxious at the thought of a mixer or networking event, social networking can prevent a whole new level of social anxiety, especially if they don't know what to share with online communities that span the world.
Social Networking Software
The major three social networking websites are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Though there are more options, these three represent the different formats that burgeoning online social networkers might encounter.
LinkedIn is best used as a type of corporate social networking. It's a living resume and a place where a professional can compile his or her job experience and achievements, and showcase written recommendations. Numerous professional groups on a wide variety of topics exist to get feedback from others in the field, and videos, pictures and even Amazon.com recommendations can be uploaded and shared.
Twitter is laid out in a microblogging format, which means users share short thoughts throughout the day or week at a 140-character limit. This social networking tool doesn't take as much time to update as a traditional blog, and can be used to inject personality to a personal brand as well as provide useful links to followers.
Facebook is a social networking website that can blur the line between LinkedIn and Twitter. There is a section where users can update their friends in short blurbs. Users can also become a fan of causes; engage in groups that consist of major companies, universities and geographic regions; and allow applications to play word games with friends or send virtual gifts.
Overcoming Social Anxiety Caused by Online Communities
Unlike a dental phobia or public speaking phobia, social networking anxiety can be harder to combat because it takes place in a virtual format, which makes it easier to avoid. It's a fear of an intangible thing that a person has to willingly log into in order to participate.
At first, take it slow. Most social networking websites have privacy settings. Before jumping in, set the profile to private if anxiety starts to well up inside, then practice social networking etiquette before inviting any friends, followers or business contacts.
When using social networking communities, always make sure to keep the information shared relevant. According to Colleen Wainwright, the marketing expert behind Communicatrix.com, information shared should be 95 percent useful and 5 percent shameless self-promotion. Otherwise, professionals might inadvertently garner the wrong attention – no one likes spammers, even those who start out with good intentions.
To be useful, Wainwright suggests being entertaining, offering information relevant to a particular field and promoting others with quality ideas. People often think they have to monitor everything they say in an online community. While this is true for very personal beliefs or practices, anything that would be brought up at an in-person business networking gathering is fair game, like hobbies or information about family life or activities.
Do not, however, share details like exact addresses and phone numbers with strangers or post them in a public setting. Treat social networking profiles like email, and don't allow applications unless they come from trusted authors to ensure that private information is protected.
The golden rule of communicating in an online setting is to type and share what would be appropriate in a professional face-to-face setting. Sometimes, the perceived anonymity of the Internet can get people in trouble when they post first and think later. This is especially true for sites with connections both to casual friends and business contacts.
Perspective on Making Contacts Online
Professionals that employ three rules while social networking will ease any anxieties about it and can develop a memorable marketing brand:
- Be a source of information or entertainment and link to others to keep the flow of conversation moving.
- Think of online social networking as in-person contact and act like a professional. Be engaging and thoughtful without sharing embarrassing or too-personal details.
- Treat a profile like an email address and don't publish personal information publicly or download applications that could extract this information secretly.
The Internet is vast and millions of people who experience social anxiety have felt their stomach go to knots at the thought of networking online. But, overcoming the fear can pave the way for business relationships that might not have developed in person – and it can all be done in pajamas.