I help businesses and their leaders develop authentic (personal) brands online and leverage social networks. I’m also an active homemaking dad, which means I’m the primary home-based parent who holds down the domestic fort on a daily basis for our two children that still live at home.
And it turns out that these two roles are more closely related than I ever realized.
In the course of my work, I come across a lot of lists about how to be effective using social networks. And I’ve written a few of those lists myself. So, I got to thinking that these lists are also very instructive about being good at lots of things in life – for instance, being a good dad and parent.
So, here’s my consolidated list of suggestions for how to be really effective in your social networking activities – and a damn good parent too!
1. Be authentic.
In social networks: Transparency, it is said, is the new objectivity. Trying to be someone you’re not is deadly when you’re building a personal brand. Know yourself and be your brand in all your online interactions.
In parenting: Kids are natural born truth-tellers and genuine innocents. They can smell your bullshit a mile away. Even if they don’t let on, they know you’re not being straight with them. Lack of authenticity is like a slow-acting poison in parent-child relationships. Be real.
2. Be responsive.
In social networks: When clients and prospects reach out with feedback or a comment, that’s your golden opportunity to engage. Even negative feedback can be an opportunity to strengthen your brand. Don’t just push stuff out – engage (or die, as Brian Solis says).
In parenting: Talk when your kids want to talk – even if it’s past their bedtime or inconvenient. Being responsive in these situations encourages more communication and deepens your relationship. The time will surely come when they stop asking.
3. Add value.
In social networks: Quality, not quantity rules. Constructive contributions that move discussions forward or make new connections – that’s what you want people to associate with you and your brand. Avoid the temptation to share more stuff of less quality more often.
In parenting: Preaching at kids isn’t half as effective as doing real things with them. If you want them to eat healthy food, teach them how to cook. If you want them to be community-minded, then get out and volunteer with them. If you want them to appreciate the outdoors, get out there and experience it with them.
4. Be consistent.
In social networks: Stick with it. Start your blog and do what’s necessary to maintain the quality and consistency of the content. Choose your engagements wisely and learn how to say no to the wrong ones.
In parenting: Be firm. Set boundaries and stick to them. Do what you say you’re going to do – don’t make promises you can’t keep. There’s lots of opportunity for your kids to be disappointed by life and to discover the vagaries and gray areas of human existence. Start them off with a solid foundation – show them there are people in this world they can rely on. Like you.
5. Show your personality.
In social networks: Subject matter expertise and professional credibility is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of success in business and social networking. People do business with people they know and trust. Show people what you’re made of. As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
In parenting: Ultimately, God willing, your kids will grow up and you will have a relationship with them as adults. So, don’t be afraid to be yourself with them – show them the real you, warts and all. They’ll figure it out in the end anyway.
6. Find your niche.
In social networks: Become expert at something and build your reputation around that topic. Narrowcasting is the essence of the new media revolution.
In parenting: Know what you’re really good at and get help with the rest. And by “get” I mean “accept” help from your partner, your friends and your family.
In social networks: It’s a two-way conversation, so spend at least half your time listening to what your network of clients, prospects, peers and competitors are saying online. The best sellers (and leaders) always listen more than they talk.
In parenting: Pay attention to what your kids are saying and talking about. Put the smart phone away and try to be present as much as possible. (I know, this is way easier said than done.)
8. Be a giver, not a taker.
In social networks: Helping others answer questions and solve problems is the coin of the realm. Share great content. Always give credit where its due. Look for ways to help. Givers get back more than they give.
In parenting: Give love. Give patience. Give attention. Give honesty. Give selflessly.
In the end, our goal in social networking is to build deep, trusting relationships with those people who matter most in our professional lives – clients, prospects and professional colleagues and peers.
What better goal could we have for the relationships we are building with our children?