To successfully engage yourself in social media (this immensely-large, continuously running and information-rich networking event), you only need to devote about 100 hours per year to it.
Now, when you put it that way, the task seems insurmountable. Here is the reality, however: This translates to only about 20 minutes a day or a couple hours scattered over the course of a week. That does not seem so bad.
In the morning, when you are enjoying a cup of coffee, you might tinker with your profile.
Another day, you take a mid-morning break and interact within one of the groups you’ve joined.
Then, at some point during the week, while you are waiting for dinner to warm up (or arrive) you jump into a discussion or answer a question.
Finally, when there is a break in the action from the big game you are watching, Share An Update.
It is important to note that there are websites and applications available that will empower you to be more effective interacting and sharing information. While those are beyond the scope of this program, a quick search online and you will find plenty.
The final active use of LinkedIn is taking advantage of the “Share An Update” feature, where you can report what you are doing, what’s on your mind or what you would like others to know.
Found on your home page of LinkedIn, this is an underutilized feature that can be used in one of three general ways.
• Mini Press Release: Imagine having a publicist. Someone who tracked your every move and reported it to the world like some Hollywood star. Well, with LinkedIn, you can. Using the Share An Update feature you can share on your profile the things you are doing. This can enlighten others on your activity (personally or professionally) … Who you know … What you are working on.
• Add Value: As we discussed earlier, adding value is important whether you are networking in a traditional manner or via LinkedIn. People simply want to associate with those that have something to offer – it is purely human nature. Using the Share An Update, you can provide value to your LinkedIn network by offering information, sharing insight or simply making alerts.
• Evoke Discussion: Finally, just like contributing content, you can use the Share An Update feature to gain information quickly or simply engage your network. This activity creates interaction and interaction generally leads to value. So think about engaging your online network by asking a question, soliciting feedback, or creating a forum for discussion.
The third active use of LinkedIn is to add value by contributing content. Think for a moment about how you might conduct yourself at a traditional networking event. You stand around talking with people. You start discussions and you contribute to discussions that others have started. You answer questions that others ask, and you ask questions that you look for others to answer. LinkedIn provides this same opportunity for its users.
If you go into any of the groups you have joined, you will see that there are usually numerous discussions going on. Jump in and add value.
This does NOT mean pitch yourself or your product. It means share an opinion or insight. Offer a solution to a problem. Share your experience as it relates to the discussion.
In networking (whether traditional or online), adding value in this manner is critical to keeping you on the minds of others. People want to associate with those who add value, as they cannot help knowing, liking and trusting you.
Being Active on LinkedIn is key. However, what if you feel woefully behind? “I haven’t done anything on LinkedIn and I’m connected to so few people. What’s the point of doing anything now?”
When others have tons of connections, activity and traction, it’s easy to have that “I will never catch up” feeling. Do not despair. There is a quick and easy way to “catch up” on LinkedIn.
The second active use of LinkedIn is to take advantage of groups. Social media is nothing more than a giant networking event. Imagine that within this continually-running and information rich event there are rooms off to the side, each filled with people who all have a common bond or interest. Some are involved in small business or a particular company. Others live near each other or went to the same college. Or maybe it’s just a similar interest, such as marketing, engineering or accounting.
For the most part, these groups are highly welcoming and interested in new members. Find a few groups that interest you and join. Can’t find a group you want to be part of? Create your own! Here are a couple neat things about groups.
First, once you join, you are able to submit invitations to connect with people within the group. Normally on LinkedIn you can only do this with those you already know somehow. This is a great way to increase your connections if you are just getting started.
Second, once in a group, you are able to directly communicate with all group members, even if you’re not yet “connected”. Normally on LinkedIn you are only permitted to communicate with the people you are directly connected to. So, this is another way to expand your network and be seen by many people who may want to connect with you.
So, joining or starting groups and then interacting within them is a powerful active use of social media.
If you went to a networking event, grabbed a chair and sat along the wall, what would you expect to gain from the experience? A: NOTHING!!! To make the event work for you, you need to get out and interact with people. LinkedIn is much the same. You can expect nothing from it, unless you put something into it. You need to make active use of it. There are five basic active uses of LinkedIn. The first is the professional profile.
Just like when you head to the networking event, you need to not only be visible, but you need to put your best foot forward. On LinkedIn, you have the ability to create a profile for yourself. This is your face in the crowd at this online networking event. Be sure to take the time to present yourself well.
Note that this essentially is an electronic resume or brochure for you.
• Don’t be shy; add a picture
• Provide a short statement of not just your title, but the value you offer
• Give a 30-Second Commercial-like overview of what you are about
• List your work experience (listing anything that is reasonably relevant)
• Provide an overview of your education (as this will lend credibility to you as well as being a point of common experience or affiliation with others)
• Seek some recommendations on the work you have done for and with others
• List impressive achievements and other experiences that might not come through in your work history (such as professional designations, awards and recognition).
The great thing about this profile is that there is no limit to how often you can revise it. So feel free to keep it up to date with whatever you are doing, producing or reading. Allow people to know as much as reasonably possible about you.
Social media is a tool to help you network but it is not a replacement for networking. It is best analogized as a giant, ongoing, searchable networking event. Great! But the $64,000 question is “What Can It Do For Me?”
First, social media is an effective means of networking THROUGH to people. You can meet attorneys, bankers and those associated with employment transition. In short, social media is a great way to find and work through strategic partners who can lead you to clients. It is not geared for selling. Again, remember, it is just like a networking event and you would not dream of overtly hawking goods or services there, so do not do it here.
Second, social media is a wonderful way to position yourself in the hearts and minds of others, especially if you are new to a profession. Many of the people who know you, know you as someone else. Even if you have been in a particular profession for a long time, your online network might not fully appreciate what it means. LinkedIn provides you a platform to brand yourself as a knowledgeable and committed person in your profession (someone to know, like and trust). It will not do this over night, but in time you can create an expert of yourself on LinkedIn.
Finally, and likely of most interest, social media is a great means of creating opportunity. Through it, you can connect with people that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can find events that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can get information that can connect you to clients. Through it, clients can become aware of you and connect with you directly. It will not provide a windfall immediately; some days will be better than others. But over time the opportunities will be there.
Social Media As Compared To Traditional Networking
Everyone 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.
Far 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.
In the early days of the Internet,
companies built websites and supplied all the content. They knew that it was
critical to have fresh content as often as possible so people would come back
to their site. And if people didn’t come back, then they knew they would be far
less attractive to potential advertisers.
We all know how this story ended. People
invested millions in these websites, 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 a fad, others re-tooled and took a new approach to the Internet. Many
sites, such as Amazon and WebMD, still depend on having fresh content to keep
people coming back. Many developers, however, took a new approach, creating
websites where the online content is created everyday by 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 important or entertaining. This development, known
as Social Media, completely shifted how people discover, read, and 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.
There are many different types of social
media, including the big three – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Beyond those
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
Congratulations! You’ve established relationships and empowered that network. Great! But
remember there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Too often, people work
hard to create a referral machine only to watch it break down because they
erroneously assume that an empowered
network will just keep kicking out referrals.
Think of it like pushing a car: You have
to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you only
have to exert mild force to keep it moving. But don’t let it stop because then
it is like starting all over.
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 referrals, including things your network might not see. Don’t get frustrated if they are not referring things that seem obvious to you. Remember, they don’t live in your world and don’t see it as you do. So ask!
Can you introduce me to…?
Could you connect me to speak at this event?
Would you keep your eyes open for…?
APPRECIATE: No matter what your network does for you, thank them. If a referral goes nowhere, thank them anyway. Why? The fact they are thinking of you is excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!
Also, appreciation is a wonderful motivator.
Dole it out and people will do whatever it takes to get more. Few people thank
others. You will set yourself apart when you show your appreciation.
CLARIFY: 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.
Don’t get frustrated. They want to help
and they are trying. Reconnect with them and clarify your request. One small
correction in how they perceive what a good referral for you is could spell the
difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.