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Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr — the world of social media offers all sorts of options for “staying in touch.”

From a business perspective, however, the way you use social media can be vitally important to your success. There’s a very important difference between marketing and building a relationship; most social media furthers only the first.

Humans are social creatures, which means we like to see, talk to and get to know other humans. We rely on facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and all sorts of cues about the overt and the subliminal messages another person is sending during a conversation. For that matter, we also learn about people just by watching them interact with others. Social media provides primarily words and still pictures, with none of the other information we need to make decisions about the individual and the individual’s message. The shortened messages used in tweets can be particularly hard to interpret.

Social media is a great marketing tool, or it can be, if used thoughtfully. It makes you visible and easy to find, and showcases the qualities that make your brand unique. In contrast, an in-person networking event or business lunch brings you face to face with people who can make judgments about your honesty, intelligence, ethics, knowledge of various subjects and other qualities that help them decide whether they want to establish a business relationship with you. No matter how much loyalty a customer has to a brand, if the representative comes across as rude, unethical or uncaring, the customer is quite likely to go elsewhere.

Your customers can’t build a relationship with your LinkedIn account. They can see pictures of your products on Facebook or YouTube, but they can’t interact with the person who has the brand. You need to make personal connections first and continue to maintain those connections. Once the relationship has been established, an engaging, empathetic message on their Facebook account can help them understand you care about them as a person, but the off-line relationship must take priority. Use social media to strengthen and enhance offline business relationships, not replace them.

by Bruce Worrall, Nov-3-15

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