legionrioSocial networks have expanded the opportunities for businesses to communicate directly with their clients, potential clients and critics.  Facebook, LinkedIn and other niche social networks lay a company bare before its competitors, fans and the entire virtual world.  The temptation, mentioned by John Bottom from Base One on his presentation regarding The Dangers of Split Personalities in Social Media, is to address the audience in a similar, programmed fashion across all social networks.  Indeed, there are even social tools, like ping.fm and other sharing widgets that make it easy to give a blanket answer or response to your audience.  But in every society where people congregate, a certain culture develops that dictates the unspoken “rules” of that society.  Social networks are no different.

When joining a social network, don’t go charging in like a bull in a China shop, blasting away with company news and product information.  Take the time to listen or browse others profiles or forums to get the gist of that network’s culture.  Then word your comments so you can relate to your audience.  This does not mean you should take on voice that is not part of your corporate culture .  It does mean that if your audience is professional and big on crossing t’s and dotting i’s you’re going to address them a bit differently than if they were laid-back and cool with emoticons  and text-speak.

The thought of updating all your social profiles with unique content is probably driving some of you, with already limited time, to tears.  Hold on.  There are some occasions where one post across multiple profiles is completely fine.  You want to have a central message that every network supports.  Jay Baer recently wrote a great analysis on what inconsistency in your message looks like in the digital world.  The times to take notice of creating unique posts are when you’re having a conversation or want to address that particular audience with questions or answers.

Be aware of your surroundings and the culture that moves within it.  If you travel to a different country it helps to learn some of the language and culture so you can understand the people and communicate more effectively.  Different countries have different cultures and different languages.  Take the time to learn the language when engaging with your clients, potential clients and critics on social networks.