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So you’re all dressed up and ready to party.
You arrive at the venue, pass the bouncers and get ready to roll.
The problem is; there’s not a familiar face in sight.
Now what do you do?

For a lot of companies, the social media scene is almost as intimidating as a real-life event.
Start off on the wrong foot, and watch helplessly as the web-savvy crowd gives you a virtual cold shoulder. Say something off-colour, and prepare to be the butt of jokes on Facebook and Twitter for the next few months. Or pretend to be something you’re not and get found out, and watch the hate mail roll in. Or worse, get turned into an annoying Internet meme.

There are no hard and fast rules for making a grand entrance into the unpredictable world of social networking. You’ll find some methods work for you, and some don’t. But the basic precepts are very much similar to handling yourself at an actual party or function.

1. Be yourself.
Really, if you’re a brand that is irreverent, fun and wacky, don’t try to sound like a hyper-intelligent Harvard graduate with an encyclopedic knowledge on the intricacies of financial modeling. Invite interaction and conversation in a manner that befits your brand, and that feels like a natural fit. Just because people can’t see you, doesn’t mean they can’t figure out you’re lying through your teeth.

2. Learn to listen.

The best way to become a part of a conversation is to listen. By doing this you’ll learn more about the people who are interested in you, and what they’re looking for. You’ll begin to understand what makes them tick and what turns them off, so you can provide more of the former and less of the latter. Then when you do respond, it will be with something that your audience can identify with, and soon, you’d have created some new prospects, or in this case, friends.

3. Don’t blend in; stand out.

Sure, in a real social setting, if you’re just there for the free buffet or to passively people-watch, you’d want to steer clear of attracting attention to yourself. But usually when you turn up at an event, it’s so that you can engage with people and make a memorable impression. And you can’t do that by just aping what others are doing.

Everyone’s on Facebook so I want to be there too; they’re running a voting contest and that’s garnered them 1,000 Likes, so maybe I’ll run one too and get the same results.

They’ve gotten a celebrity blogger to review their products; I should do the same so that I don’t lose out.

Oh, they got 800 people to follow them on Twitter by offering freebies; I’m sure I can do the same.

The problem is, individuals on social networking sites are as unpredictable, fickle and easily bored as they are in real life. Giving them more of the same isn’t going to help you build your social presence; in fact, it will probably drive them towards other brands who are more adventurous, more exciting and more willing to do new things.

Getting the best out of social media requires a lot of patient trial and error.

It’s what’s exciting about this brave new digital world, and there’s never been a better time than now for your brand to explore its possibilities.

So take the leap and make some friends.

How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?

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