I have taught many business owners how to leverage social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to grow their businesses.  Inevitably, I always get the same question, “How do I inspire a sense of confidence in my company in people that have never met my employees or myself?”

Good question.  Honestly, it is taking the same technique that is used in web pages and taking it one step further- establishing a professional image.

The difference between a website and a profile on social networks is that the profile has the opportunity to enable business owners to connect on a personal level while a website does not.  Most websites are static; the business having a one-way conversation with potential clients.  On the other hand, social networks establish a two-way conversation where the potential client can talk back.

It is extremely rare for anyone to leave a website and feel like they personally know the salespeople or owner.  However, a social network allows professionals to build relationships.  Remember, people buy from those that they know, like and trust!

Here are five key tips to keep in mind that will  help your business gain credibility in the eyes of potential clients that you meet on social networks.

1.  Make sure that your website and marketing materials are up to par. If a business’ website looks homemade and marketing materials are riddled with errors and look unprofessional, it would do more harm than good to direct more traffic to these resources.  One only gets one chance to make a first impression.

2.  Represent your business. Ensure that profiles display a link back to the business’ website.  Post testimonials, pictures of products, business logo, etc.

3.  Have a professional image, personally. Main profile pictures should either be professionally taken, or have something to do with the business or brand represented.  It is almost always (99.9% of the time) better to post a picture of yourself versus a business logo or product shots.  Why?  These are social networks; people are on them to meet and get to know other people- NOT to be advertised to.

4.  Monitor your connections. People will associate you with your connections/contacts/friends on social networks.  If you have connections that are not presenting a positive image for your business, delete them immediately.  Do not accept all friend requests (even from family).  You are not only held accoutable to the things that you post, but for those things posted on your pages by others.

5.  Be an expert. Whatever your business may be, be an expert on the industry for your potential clients.  Don’t simply advertise your business on social networks.  Give helpful information that your clients need/want.  If you own a skincare company, give helpful information relating to creating and maintaining great skin.  If people see that you know what you are talking about, they will trust you and your company.