There’s something to be said about actually interfacing with someone “in person” rather than via email. And while some believe social networks are set up solely to allow individuals to connect with as many people as you possibly can, it’s really a tool that should be used in the same manner as you would introduce yourself and your company at a party or over the phone with a personal touch.

Mind you, there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing a tasty morsel on Twitter or posting a new happening on my Project X Media’s Facebook page. I am the first to acknowledge the power of these wide-reaching tools. I believe there is a lot of value to occupying cyberspace – after all, the more your brand is seen, the more powerful it becomes, and the more it resonates with the customers/clients.

But it’s HOW you engage with people that’s equally important. You and your company’s brand is on the line each and every time you “follow” a new individual on Twitter or “friend” someone on Facebook. So before you open your virtual doors to just anyone, keep in mind that these rules still apply:

• Choose your online connections wisely – It’s not about quantity, but quality. When you get an invitation to connect with someone online, decide whether you truly know this person. If you’re on a professional site like LinkedIn, this is especially important. You may be asked if you know this person, and if you would recommend him/her.

• Be true to your brand – When you are posting something online, like a website news posting on your blog, or adding a comment on a social networking site, be sure that the content you post is aligned with your company’s mission, vision and values. By staying loyal to your brand through the content you post, it will elevate your status as a guru in the industry and breed trust through your followers.

• Nurture your “inner circle” – Part of social networking, especially like Twitter, which is a micro-blog (only 140 characters per entry) is about the social interaction between you and other online community members. It’s not just about posting your latest happenings, but commenting and replying to your followers as well. (Hence the word “social”)

• Walk the talk – Do what you say you’re going to do or can do. If you say you’re an expert, be sure you can back it up. Nothing is worse than finding out someone is a fake, or posting misinformation. How disappointing to find out you can’t live up to the expectations you’ve set in the presentation of your online brand.

The rules of engagement have dramatically changed through the introduction of the aforementioned social media sites, however the way we present ourselves through being authentic has not, and should not change. I’ve personally coached our clients on how to blog and write content, and one of the fundamental principles is to stay true to your brand. At Project X Media, we help our clients clearly establish their brand “define their mission, vision, values and culture ” and by doing so, it facilitates the seamless development of brand messaging. When interacting with social media sites, be your own “brand police” is this something that directly represents your core values? If the answer is yes, then go for it!
Jen Martino was interviewed on Online Marketing with RSS Ray on Listen!

RSS Ray’s Comments: “Project X Media has taken a fantastic approach to online branding that integrates social networking, new media, and traditional brand management.”