Social Networking for the “In Person” Crowd
I get it. You know networking. You go to BNI meetings, Chamber events, and other networking activities.
You can press the flesh, break bread, and have coffee or drinks with anyone.
But you look at that Facebook news feed or that LinkedIn profile and you’re just not sure what to do next.
Here’s the good news: social networking isn’t all that different from traditional networking, except you can do it when you want, where you want, and with whom you want. No more getting backed into a corner by that weird guy selling life insurance.
(And, um, if you sell life insurance, I meant that guy from the accounting firm.)
Getting started with social networking.
Whatever platform you’re on—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.—some of the advice is universal.
Complete your profile.
The social media landscape is overrun with networking profiles. To stand out and make connections, you need to fully complete your profile.
While every platform has unique fields, one requirement is a head shot. You need to have a profile photo so people can recognize you, both online and in real life.
It should be recent, professional but personable, and you should be smiling. Since profile pics often get sized down on platforms, you should crop it close enough to your face that you’re recognizable.
After the photo, fill out every field you can: name, location, job history, education, favorite music, whether or not you like bacon. (I’m not kidding about bacon: it’s like the worst kept secret handshake of social media.)
Jump-start your network.
Chances are you already have a database of names and contacts from your years in business and networking.
Did you know that you can upload your database to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other popular platforms and they’ll let you know if your contacts are already members?
Once they’re uploaded, many platforms ask if you want them to send out invites to everyone on your list. For the love of all that’s holy, say no!
Many of your contacts may not be on LinkedIn, for example, and it’s not your job to get them to join. Instead, start with the people who are already on the platform, and then winnow it down to just the people you’d like to connect with on this platform.
If you haven’t done this yet, go ahead and try it now. I’ll wait.
Done? Already? OK, then. You’ve just quickly and ethically built up your online network. Congrats!
Now, slow down.
Once you’ve added your real life contacts, it’s time to start building organically. This isn’t an arms race to see who has the most contacts. It’s quality over quantity, unless you’re a headhunter or executive director of a member based organization, and even then, you should be focusing on quality.
You don’t want to be “that guy” at the networking event who’s passing out business cards so fast that he’s not learning anyone’s name or job title.
On LinkedIn, join appropriate groups based on your geography, industry, or the industry of your customers, and join in the conversation.
On Twitter, follow interesting people who you’d like to network with, answer their questions and pose your own.
On Facebook, send messages to people you’d like to connect with, especially mentioning mutual friends, but keep in mind that a lot of people prefer to use Facebook for strictly fun.
This is probably the most important element of all. Because in social media you’re just one click away from being unfriended, unfollowed, or unsubscribed from.
If you’re not consistently providing value to your audience—as they define it—they’ll either ignore or abandon you.
Social networking is a lot like real life networking.
You want to be professional, but you also want to be yourself.
You want to find and network with the people whom you can help, and you might be able to help you.
Ultimately, you want to provide value to your network, which will in turn attract more people to you and your business.
About the Author
Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media (http://www.flyte.biz), a web design and marketing firm in Portland, Maine. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, Internet marketing and social media.
He presents and blogs (http://www.flyteblog.com) on web marketing topics such as social media, search engine optimization, email marketing, blogs and building websites that sell.
He is currently an Expert Blogger at FastCompany.com and a regular contributor at SocialMediaExaminer.com.
He is a founder of The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference (http://www.agentsofchangecon.com/), an annual conference on search, social & mobile marketing.
He is the “tech guru” on WCSH Channel 6’s evening news show, 207, and teaches web marketing and social media courses for entrepreneurs at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Continuing Education.