The internet provides many opportunities to small business owners and entrepreneurs, including the ability to network and brand themselves. Emphasis on product, price, and web presence is not the only thing that should be on the minds of entrepreneurs, however. Utilizing proper social skills and ‘netiquette’ can be just as important, if not more for the new business owner.

Bloggers and anyone who is publishing content online for web marketing must be careful with the impressions they leave their readers and potential prospects. It can be easy to attain a certain level of influence online and think it is safe to ignore those who brought you that far. Your readers and potential readers may remain loyal but your attraction to new leads may be dwindling, while you don’t have the slightest idea why.

Regardless of the physical distance between author and reader, you can create much more if you are unaware of the reputation you have built among your target market and fail to maintain a positive image. Consider the following questions and try to put yourself in the place of those you are trying to reach, not your own:

  1. Do I respond to inquiries in a timely manner?
  2. How would I perceive someone who never responded or reciprocated acknowledgment on my Facebook fan page, Twitter profile, or other social media platform?
  3. Have I taken the time to express appreciation to my following recently?
  4. Do I follow the Golden Rule and treat others as I want to be treated?
  5. Am I seeing a decrease in my conversion rates or referral business?
  6. What is the tone in my blog posts? Am I beginning with something positive or ranting about something in a negative way?
  7. When I respond to comments, do I use words like thank you and please?
  8. Have I started seeing a decrease in comments or regular visits?
  9. Am I following up on automated social media tools to check direct messages, replies, and re-tweets?
  10. Is my blog and social media strategy on auto-pilot?
  11. Do I continuously spew out information or is it possible I am not listening to those around me?
  12. Has my following decreased or experienced major fluctuation?

Social Media strategists are finding more and more evidence tying interaction and engagement with people as an essential component to success for web marketing. This trend is not likely to slow down, especially when it is so easy to do so; all that is required is time, not money. When all else is equal between competitors, decision to buy or go elsewhere will ultimately lie in the persons feelings or view of you.

Bloggers and entrepreneurs stepping into the ever-growing pool of social media will need to master these skills to remain competitive. The internet is still quite young and growing at exponential rates. Just because someone has more experience online is no guarantee they will be successful or remain relevant. Interact with your market and engage them to ensure they know your company, brand, or product is backed by a real live person instead of an automated machine. Similar to the disdain we hold for automated menus on telephones, people will appreciate real relationships.

This may seem time-consuming at first but with proper scheduling and information on how to productively spend your time blogging, updating Facebook fans and twitter followers, the time spent is pale in comparison to the rewards one can reap. Consider your following as though they are live people coming into a traditional brick and mortar, ignoring them could cost you more than a sale. Word of mouth is still the most effective and damaging form of advertising. The internet just makes this marketing vehicle more viral and gives it more power.

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