I’ve been a regular user of social networking sites for personal and business reasons for the last 6 years. Over that time I’ve seen this communication medium mature and become a mainstream way of meeting people and communicating with friends. However, 6 years on, particularly when people are using social networking sites for business purposes they are making school boy errors – and damaging their reputation in the process.

I will give you several examples which have all happened to me in the last month:

1) Assume the relationship is stronger than it really is

This happens to me a couple of times a week. People see my large twitter following and want to harness the benefit of this. So what do I mean by this? Out of the blue I will get a tweet asking me to retweet something for them or ‘it’s for charity’ please RT. Normally this is the first time that I have spoken to them. How does this make me feel? Used… If you want people to help you on social networking sites, spend time developing the relationship before you ask the favour. If I know you and like you, then I (and others) are far more likely to help you out.

If you need help in managing your relationships, then see our 7 part guide to strategically managing relationships.

2) Sell in the first conversation

If I was to meet you at a networking event, would you, after saying hello, then immediately ask me to buy your product or sign up for your mailing list or friend you on Facebook? No. Of course not. You would take the time to get to know a little more about me, shot the breeze for a bit. Then, if appropriate, you may causally mention that your business is on Facebook or why I may benefit from signing up to your mailing list.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are not ‘get rich quick’ tools. If anything the time to build up a strong relationship is much much more than in the face to face environment. Yes, people are easier to reach online, but much harder to generate trust with. Hence, people are very unlikely to buy from you on your first online conversation. Take your time to get to know them properly before heading towards a sales conversation.

(See stop selling to me on twitter – Part 1 & Part 2 for more detailed examples of how people inadvertently sell on Twitter.)

3) Permanently broadcasting out their message

(This mistake is one of Jon’s 7 social media deadly sins)

One of my old network recently arrived on Twitter. Brilliant I thought, an opportunity to get to know them. Then what do they do? Diligently tweet a link to a sales product once a day. Yes, they are permanently switched onto broadcast. Not helpful.

On social networking sites you want a mixture of credibility and relationship building content. If all you do is broadcast credibility building content if can be difficult to people to build up a relationship with you. If all you share relationship building content, it can be difficult for people to quickly associate you with what you actually do. Make sure you take the time to have conversations and help other people rather than just broadcasting what you do.

What mistakes do you see others making on social networking sites?

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Written by Heather Townsend. I help professionals become the 'Go To Expert'. I am the co-author of 'How to make partner and still have a life', 'The Go-To Expert' and the author of the award-winning and bestselling book on Networking, 'The FT Guide To Business Networking'. To find out whether I can help you read 'is this you' Connect with me on ,  LinkedIn and Twitter