Social Media as Compared to Traditional Networking

computerEveryone has been to a networking event … Business After-Hours, Open House or Tradeshow … A gathering of people with the ability to interact with each other. Do you know what? That is what social media is, nothing more than a networking event. It is just another networking event, EXCEPT for some important differences.

First, your average networking event might have a few hundred people all from a local area. Social media, however, boast having millions of people participating (and likely 100’s of thousands in your region) and they are scattered all over the world.

Second, most networking events operate on a particular day and time. If you happen to be busy during that day and time (say, Friday at 7:30 am), you are out of luck until the next event. With LinkedIn, however, this networking event is going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. During the big game you can participate in the event while you watch TV. If you can’t sleep, you can come online to the event. Even on
Thanksgiving Day (or any other major holiday) you can be part of this continuously operating networking event.

Finally, when you walk into a networking event and see new faces, you cannot tell who is who. The guy in the suit could be a corporate executive or someone in transition. You just don’t know. If you are looking to network with attorneys, you generally find them via introduction or by trial and error. With social media (especially LinkedIn, in this instance), you can find the people you are looking for quickly and you can know a ton about them before you start to converse.

So approach social media as if it were just another networking event, but know that it also has the wonderful advantages of being worldwide and immense, continuously operating and rich with searchable information.

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.”