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Metro pros provide rules to navigate social networking, new media sites



The party season is over. What to do with the new contacts you met at that holiday shindig? You could send a tweet on Twitter, friend them on Facebook or request a link up on LinkedIn.
But, watch your wording or risk stumbling into another realm of social outcasts.


Several Oklahoma City professionals provided a rundown of best business practices in the net-iquette on popular social networking and new media sites.

Sam Sims of Jones Public Relations Inc. said businesses are adapting to the new places customers congregate. Sims uses Twitter to move conversations with contacts along. Others use Facebook, whose fastest growing user demographic is the 25 and older set. Web sites such as LinkedIn, Plaxo and others are more appropriate to reach professionals.

"Some businesses have made a total shift to only using social and new media, but this is rare and I do not suggest it in most cases," Sims said. "Offer useful information and cite the source even if that means your competitors."

Businesses who only work through social mediums run the risk of becoming the annoying guy at the party who wants to be in every single conversation and offers his opinion without merit.
"Don't wear out your welcome by sending too many messages," said Joyce Burch. "You will annoy people and they will delete you as a friend, connection."

Burch is the manager of graduate outreach and internships at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. After extensive surveys of college students, she reaches future grads in the metro area through a Greater Grads group and a page on Facebook.

Burch suggests careful tending of the page and group.

"Keep the conversation flowing and information current. You are the host for this social networking party and you want to make sure every is having fun."

Like any good host, Burch said to use consideration in your dealings.

Boe Parrish, president of Corporate Care Inc., practices courtesy when building relationships with his more than 3,700 and growing contacts on LinkedIn. He suggests not connecting with masses of people just to increase numbers.

"If people dialogue with me or I go to their profile and they have lots of recommendations that aren't saying the same thing, that's the key factor on whether I connect," he said. "I ignore those (invites) that take all they can without giving back."

Businesses using social networking tools need to be able to identify a target audience and determine if they should be part of that site.

"You need to be sensitive to your client's needs," Parrish said. "Clients love having access to lots of information and contacts, but don't inundate them with unnecessary e-mails or sales calls. Bring something of value to the dance, or leave the dance."

Utilizing young talent that is most familiar with these Web sites is a great use of resources. But, as Parrish said, be wary of the content of the site by having a firm hand in its direction around the dance floor. The same goes for company blogs.

Burch said blogging showcases creativity and originality, giving information in a more informal way. It's also a good way to establish credibility in a given field.

However, it should still follow certain rules. Talk about your passions, Burch said, but keep it clean " a blogger shouldn't write anything that couldn't be discussed in a business setting. Keep it short, too, she said, since a few paragraphs fit most readers' attention spans.

Sims said businesses should have a specific objective for using new and social media.

"Having the stated objective and a plan will help build trust among the audiences and market," he said. "Tackling without full understanding can have a severe and negative impact in such an open and sometimes volatile medium."

Social and new media are being validated by some as real sources of information by creating their own quasi-editorial process. If someone sees a post and knows it's not true, they can give several resources why through a comment to that post.

According to the Web site, there are more than 1.5 million new blog posts daily. This number does not include the posts sent through Facebook, MySpace and networking sites. Technorati connects blogs and social media sites with advertisers by measuring the conversations within those blogs and sites.

With so many people online at a given point, the potential for a public relations nightmare is great.

"Along with the deep ethical issues, it is way too easy to identify false information," Sims said. "Social and new media audiences are incredible watchdogs for truthful information. Be warned that false or misleading information can be crippling." "Heather Dutcher Spencer

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