by Kevin Iwamoto | September 15, 2016

Kevin IwamotoI was recently networking at an industry event and was with a former executive colleague of mine from my Lanyon days. He stood by as I was stopped by more than a dozen people to chat, after which he asked me, “How do you remember all of these peoples’ personal and professional information? You must have a database mind!” After laughing that comment off, I simply replied, “social media.” It then dawned on me how truly different the client-supplier relationship has become thanks to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and all the other social media channels.

In days of yore, you wrote down and stored client information on index cards (remember those?) and in Rolodexes, journals, etc. With the advent and current sophistication of technology to help you work faster and more efficiently, and with the Internet connecting people to social and digital media, you now have instant access to client profiles and information at your desk or on your mobile phone/tablet. Research no longer requires you to make a trip to the library, as you can find everything online. And no more scrolling through paper-bound geography maps: Via your smartphone, you can get GPS coordinates for your appointments and have reminders chirp at you as well. This is just a small sampling of how digital advances and social media have truly rocked our world.

Social media channels like Facebook and Instagram immediately connect you to clients with whom you can friend or otherwise invite to link. You can effortlessly get to know about their lives, partners, families, pets, likes, dislikes, etc., all of which can blur the lines between a professional and personal relationship. Channels like LinkedIn give you so much rich content and information about prospective clients that you can bypass or accelerate the normal “getting to know you” process and jump right into doing business with them. Having easy and quick reference access to your supplier and client base helps to keep you on top of everything that’s going on at a high and granular level.

With all that said, here are five tips to remember as you navigate your way through and get more comfortable with social media and this digital age in which we live.

1. The first cardinal rule: Try to avoid online discussions of politics, religion and other really personal information and opinions. While social media is a great medium for sharing, you might want to filter those views down to a much smaller and select group of friends and family and not your entire social network.

2. With social media channels, always keep in mind that what you post is permanent. There are more than enough tragic stories I could share but won’t about people who made posts and attached photos of moments they regretted later because they were intoxicated or distracted. Remember: Deleting doesn’t necessarily make posts go away.

3. If you invite clients into your social arena along with friends and family, your posts can’t be 100 percent casual — you always need to maintain a level of professionalism. If you don’t have the discipline to do this, then create a social group comprised of only close friends and family, and separate your professional social media into a separate account to maintain the integrity of your posts.

4. Remember always that in this day and age, you control the level of privacy you want to present to the world. Social media is publicly social, so that means your posts, opinions, photos, etc. will always find their way to the mainstream. Be responsible! I’ve known people who have lost their jobs because of what they’ve posted online. Keep in mind that HR departments often use social media to build a profile on prospective candidates for jobs, since they are heavily restricted from asking personal questions during interviews. If you are seeking employment or want to stay employed, be self-aware and responsible.

5. In this era of social transparency, you have no excuse for showing up late for an appointment, because you and most of us have mobile GPS capability. And if you really want to tick off a client, ask, “So tell me about yourself and your company.” With social media and the Internet available for online research, that question immediately implies “I’m too lazy to have found out about you and your company first,” which in turn might warn your client prospects to move on.

Social media has changed the way we live, communicate and express our individuality. When using it, be consistent, be who you are, but be responsible and aware.

Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto.