Warning for Social Media Networking

computerFar too often, people figuratively chain themselves to their computer and clank away in LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter hoping to create business for themselves. While they may stumble onto some, it seldom reaches the level they hope for.

Know this… Social media (and especially LinkedIn) is not a sales machine… it is not an order-taking system…it is not an ATM. It is merely a tool that you can use to better network yourself … It is not a replacement for networking.

Think of it in terms of this analogy … We networked before we had phones. People worldwide and people in this country built vast and complex civilizations long before they had any sort of electronic telecommunications. They were able to network themselves … Word-of-mouth, couriers and carrier pigeons did the trick. Back in the day, people did business and associated with those they knew, they liked and they trusted.

When the telephone came along, it did not change the underlying aspects of networking. It just made it easier. But they still did business with those they knew, they liked and they trusted. The telephone was just a tool.

The same is true of social media (such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter). It is just a tool. It is not networking. It is just a tool to make it easier to get to know people, determine if we like them, and then ultimately trust them.

Networking and Social Media

computerIn the early days of the Internet, companies built websites and then took on the responsibility of supplying all the content. They knew that it was critical to have fresh content as often as possible if they were to have people continue to view their site. And if people did not continue to view their site (known as hits), then they knew they would become far less attractive to potential advertisers.

We all know how this story ended. People invested millions in these websites. From that, stock was sold on Wall Street. And in the end, people lost billions and the economy was thrust into a recession of sorts.

While some proclaimed the World Wide Web as just being a fad, others began to re-tool and take a new approach to the Internet. There are still many sites that depend upon having fresh content to keep people coming back (a great example is Amazon or WebMD). Some developers, however, took a new approach. They created websites where the online content is created everyday by millions and millions of average people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. These developers look to people like you and me to write about what is interesting to us and share things we deem to be important or entertaining. This development is known as Social Media, and it completely shifts how people discover and read, as well as share, news, information and other content.

Certainly, social media gets a bad rap. It can be viewed as an expansive online rumor mill or coffee club. If you approach it correctly, however, it can be a valuable networking tool.

It is important to point out that there are lots of different types of social media. Certainly there are the big three … LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Beyond that there are dozens of others. YouTube is a form of social media just for sharing video. Instagram and Pinterest are for sharing images.

There are sites geared entirely for small business and some just for attorneys … Or writers. The point is that there are tons of different types of social media. Some have better business applications than others, but there are lots of ways to connect with people on the Internet now.

Creating a Referral Machine: 7 of 7

keep the gearsYou have established relationships and you have empowered that network. Great! Know this, however, there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Far too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it “peter out” or break down altogether because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.

Think of creating a referral machine like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you do not have to exert much force to keep it moving, but it still takes mild effort (and you dare not let it come to a stop, because then it is like starting over).

With creating a referral machine, the establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving, the mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.

Ask … Continue to ask for ways you can help your network. Yes, continue to ask for referrals, but also ask for things that your network might not see. From time to time, someone will become frustrated with their network because it is not referring something that seems obvious to them. Remember those who make up your referral machine do not live in your world. They do not always see it the way you do. Do not be afraid to ask.

  • “Can you introduce me to this person?”
  • “Could you get me an opportunity to speak at this event?”
  • “Would you keep your eye open for this?”

Do not be afraid that your network will be annoyed. Remember, if you do it right they know you, like you, and trust you.

Appreciate … Second, no matter what your network does for you, thank them. If they send you a referral or do anything of value, fall all over yourself thanking them. Celebrate your joy with them.

If a referral goes nowhere, fall all over yourself thanking them. Why? First, the glass is always half full. The fact they are thinking of you is an excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!

Second, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. You dole it out and people want more. And they will do what is necessary to get more. Know this, few people “thank” others. Therefore you will really set yourself apart when you show appreciation towards others.

Clarify … Finally, no matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.

So what? Don’t get frustrated. Remember, the glass is half full. They want to help and they are trying. Take the opportunity to reconnect with them and clarify. One small correction in how they are perceiving what is a good referral for you could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.

Creating a Referral Machine: 6 of 7

keep the gearsIf you do a spectacular job educating your network on recognizing referrals, great. That, however, is not enough. You need to empower them with the ability to talk to prospective clients about what it is you do.

For example, if they recognize that the displaced executive is a potential client to refer to you, great. Encourage them to strike up a conversation with the person (and they will if they know, like and trust you). And transition into a discussion about franchising. Here is an example:

“I am sorry you are in transition. What is your next move? Have you considered becoming your own boss? I understand that franchising is almost a fool-proof means of successfully being in business. I know a great franchise broker … there is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisors pay his fees.”

In addition to general conversation, empower your referral machine with non-technical buzz words and catch phrases about your industry (as well as what they mean) … Franchise Fee … Ongoing Royalties … FDD … Earnings Claim … Discovery Day. Your network should know enough to talk about what you do but not enough to do it.

Finally, encourage your network to hook you into the situation. In short, encourage the person to talk about you in a connecting sense. Returning to the example from before “I know a great franchise broker. There is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisers pay his fees.”

Creating a Referral Machine: 5 of 7

keep the gearsEstablishing relationships is an important first step. In so doing, you have built a network of people who are really behind you. Again, they know, like and trust you. This alone does not create a referral machine, however. Before your network can refer you, they need to be empowered. Empowered to recognize opportunities for you as well as empowered to talk or communicate about you.

People within your network do not magically know how to refer you. First, they need to know who to refer you to and they need to know when to refer you. To make this happen, it is entirely up to you to empower them to recognize these opportunities.

Consider franchise brokerage (though this applies to any business or profession). Certainly if someone comes out and says, “I am looking to buy a
franchise”, your network should know to think of and refer you. But what about all the times that someone could be a great client but does not say they are looking to buy a franchise (or they do not even know that franchise ownership is an option).

EXAMPLES:

  • What about the person whose spouse is looking to have their own business?
  • What about the displaced executive who might not be interested in getting back into the grind?
  • What about the mid-level manager that wants a way out of the grind?

If you want to create a referral machine, it is your job to paint a picture in the minds of your network as to who is a good referral candidate and what is a good situation. Here are three great ways to do this.

  1. Develop a series of short 30-second commercials that concisely convey what you are looking for and what you do. Again, develop a series, so that you have a varied message. Write these out and practice them, then use them as often as possible. For help on this find the short series on 30-second commercials.
  2. Even if you have a great 30-second commercial, people are not going to fully remember what you have to say. To overcome this, develop (again) a series of short summaries outlining what you are looking for. Make these short and simple (so simple that a 5th grader could understand them) and either have them professionally done or neatly type and lay them out with a computer. Then hand and mail (and e-mail) these out consistently.
  3. If you give people the basic facts, they might politely listen. But if you weave these facts within a compelling story, an example or analogy, they will be enthralled by what you have to say. If you have experiences, share them. If you do not have experiences, then talk to someone who does and borrow theirs. If you have neither experience nor access to someone who does, make it up. In this situation, it is not stealing to make someone else’s experiences your own. It is not lying to craft a story that has not occurred. You are doing this to paint a picture of what a good referral looks like.

In Part 6, we will address empowering your referral machine.

Creating a Referral Machine: 4 of 7

keep the gearsOkay, there are lots of potential people with whom to establish a relationship. What about the “HOW”? How can you make this happen?

Yes, there are lots of people. That is generally not the problem. That is seldom people’s shortcoming in creating a referral machine. It is the “how” that trips people up.

In establishing relationships, there are three main categories of activities you need to consider making part of your personal regimen. (1) Giving or adding values to others; (2) Ensuring that you become involved; and (3) Making sure that you are dependable or reliable in what you say and do.

First, when people hear the term “GIVING TO OTHERS”, they tend to conjure up images of dragging out their wallets. That is not the case at all. There are lots of things you can do in giving or adding value to others.

  • Doing business with others.
  • Sending them referrals.
  • Providing them with information.
  • Spurring them on.
  • Introducing them to others.

Each of these things adds value to others. The key part of all of this, however, is that when you add value to others, they cannot help but feel they know you, like you, trust you. And somehow, they are quietly compelled to return the deed at some point in time.

Second, another means of establishing relationships, is getting involved with your community.

Trust this, no matter where you live, there are business groups, charities and civic initiatives that could use your time, talent and energy. When you get involved in your community, it raises your level of exposure and it demonstrates your commitment. With these things, people cannot help but feel they know you, like you and trust you, which is exactly what you need to start establishing relationships and create a referral machine.

Finally, adding value and getting involved are great for establishing relationships. You, however, will undermine the entire process, if you are not reliable. With even an innocent infraction of unreliability, you can kill your chances of getting referrals. Be reliable … be on time … do what you say… follow-up, as you promise. And if for some reason you are unable to do these things, alert the person who might be relying on you
as soon as possible.

This may all seem like common sense. It is. It is, however not common practice. It has tripped up even those with the best of intentions. Guard against this.

Nevertheless, once you have these relationships established, you can start to put your referral machine to work. That is the subject of Part 5.

Creating a Referral Machine: 3 of 7

keep the gearsThe important first step to creating a referral machine is establishing relationships. This all begs two important questions: (1) WITH WHOM
should I establish these relationships? And then even more importantly, (2) HOW do I go about establishing these relationships?

As to WITH WHOM you should establish relationships, there is no magic or secrets. They are all around you. First, start with the people you already know. Why? The people you already know, presumably already know, like and trust you. Far too often, when people embark on creating a referral machine, they become fixated on people they have never met before.

Think about it. You know tons of people right now – friends from the community or school, former colleagues, existing or past clients. This represents a treasure trove of raw materials with which to work.

Second, develop a list of strategic partners. Ask yourself this, who are the people that do not compete with you, but run in the circles as you would like to be running? What is the profile of a good potential client for you and who might be servicing them?

Third, everyone is connected. Everyone knows someone who might be a good potential referral for you (they may or may not realize it). This is not to say that you need to establish a relationship with everyone. What it does say, though, do not dismiss anyone. Give everyone attention and respect.

As to HOW, we cover that in Part 4.

Creating A Referral Machine: 2 of 7

keep the gearsCreating a Referral Machine: 2 of 7

Just because you want this referral machine does not mean that you get it. You have to build it, and there is a process to it, a three-step process to doing so.

You start by establishing relationships. Then within those relationships (which is essentially a network of people), you empower them to not just understand what you do, but how to talk about it. Then finally, you remain in continual contact to appropriately guide and re-adjust the process. Yes, this takes work, but in the end the rewards far outpace the effort.

The foundation upon which you will create a referral machine is based upon the relationships you have with others. This is the most important point: people do business and refer business to those that they know, like and trust. Those who get the most and best referrals are simply those who have the best relationships. They are widely known, highly liked, and implicitly trusted.

We will cover this process in greater detail starting in Part 3.

Creating A Referral Machine 1 of 7

keep the gearsCreating A Referral Machine 1 of 7

You are ambitious. You are savvy. You want to be more successful. You want to work smarter and not harder. You know that referrals are the means of achieving that. Referrals are the most effective means of creating this greater success.

The best place to be in business, (any business or profession) is the point where your new clients are almost exclusively generated from people in your network. These are friends, colleagues, strategic partners and even former clients sending you prospective clients.

At this point, your network becomes your sales force. In short, you have effectively created a referral machine and that machine (i.e., your network) is working for you, even when you are not working.

This begs the question, “How do I create a referral machine?” We start on this in Part 2.

Networking And Stone Soup

Networking And Stone Soup

In Marcia Brown’s old tale, entitled Stone Soup, plague-ridden villagers were stingy with their food and had no interest in sharing with anyone but their own.

This begins to change, however, when a peddler tells the villagers that he would like to share some stone soup with them (essentially throwing a few rocks in boilinV (Soup)g water). This action, along with some goading words, moved villagers to become generous — one by one sharing. A head of cabbage here, some salt beef there, and voilá, before long there was a large brew collectively made and fit to feed all of them.

Brown essentially suggests that generosity and altruism are contagious. Is this just a hopeful fable? Or is there any truth to this assertion? Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D. and James H. Fowler, Ph.D tested this assertion and shared their results in their book Connected.

These researchers took a set of 120 students who were put into groups of four. The groups’ individuals were given some money to be used to perform an exercise composed of a series of tasks. Participants both profited and lost via these tasks in a capitalistic exercise. After each exercise, however, the individuals had the option of giving some funds to others at the expense of their own.

After each exercise, the groups were mixed up so that no two groups were ever the same throughout the experiment. In the first few rounds of exercises, no money was gifted.

Amongst the participants, however, was a plant — someone in on the experiment. This person we will refer to as the “Stone Soup Peddler.” After certain exercises, the Stone Soup Peddler started to systematically give away some of the money to others.

In the exercises that followed this exhibition of generosity, the people who benefited from the gift, gave more. In addition, even the people who witnessed the gifting, but did not directly benefit began giving more. These altruistic gestures then began to spread through the group.

In business, no doubt, you are dependent upon others giving to you. You look for others to give you information. You look for people to share referrals with you. You need people to share insights and ideas with you.

Acts of generosity, however, are inspired somehow. That is people do not just give. Rather people are moved to give somehow, some way.

As the story of  or the Christakis-Fowler study illustrates, you have the power to inspire generosity through your own generosity. The substance of the act does not matter. What does matter, however, is that you act, as this simple gesture becomes contagious. You can literally inspire your entire network with one small act to literally anyone. A simple referral. An introduction. Sharing of insight or information.

Any or all of this will inspire your network to give to others. In so doing, not only will you have done something wonderful, but you will also be in close proximity when the generosity begins to materialize.