Social Media: What Can It Do For Me?

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 100s 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.

Creating 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.

The Strength Of Weak Ties

In addition to the types of people in your network, you need to consider the extent to which you know people in your network.

In Getting A Job, author and sociologist Mark Granovetter found that 56% of people found jobs through personal contacts. Not surprising. After all, it is not “what you know, but who you know.” 

The surprise was that the personal contacts used to obtain these jobs were not family or friends – “close ties”. Rather most could be classified as “weak ties”.  55.6% reported that they saw their “job-producing” contact only occasionally and 27.8% saw their contact only rarely.

So, when it comes to job hunting – or finding clients – weak ties tend to be more important than strong ties.

Why? Because close ties tend to occupy the same world as you do. A spouse or close friend may share many of the same network contacts as you and is likely to only refer or connect you to people you already know.

Mere acquaintances, or “weak ties”, on the other hand, are much more likely to know people that you do not. While you might share a small overlap in networks, most of the people they know are completely unknown to you.

The take-away? Do NOT rely solely on close ties to fortify your network. A better means is to associate with people you don’t know well – the person from work that you know casually from meetings or trips on the elevator; the person you see every week at church but, beyond a name, you know little else about.

From a networking perspective, the most valuable people aren’t those closest to you. In fact, the more people you know who aren’t close to you, the stronger your position becomes.

In summary, the quality of your relationships matters and one measure of quality is the strength or weakness of the tie. Having lunch with your long-time best buddy can be fun but does little to build your network. If you want to build your network, have lunch with someone you know … but not that well.

The “Kevin Bacon” Game

Kevin Bacon is a popular American actor. The idea behind the Kevin Bacon game is to link any actor or actress to Kevin Bacon through the movies they’ve been in. 

For example: Mary Pickford was in “Screen Snapshots” with Clark Gable, who was in “Combat America” with Tony Romano who, 35 years later, was in “Starting Over” with Kevin Bacon.  Three Steps.

In the 1990s, computer scientist Brett Tjaden determined that Kevin Bacon was on average 2.8312 steps from any actor or actress, which placed him 668th of all actors and actresses. Then he determined the overall connectivity of a host of other actors and actresses. Among the top 50 were names such as Martin Sheen, Robert Mitchum, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Rod Steiger, and Shelly Winters.

Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz further attempted to determine why actor Burgess Meredith, who appeared in 114 films, ranked in the top 20 when Gary Cooper, with a similar number of films, ranked 878th, and John Wayne, with 183 films to his credit, only ranked 160th.

They concluded that while Gary Cooper and John Wayne appeared in a significantly greater number of movies, the movies were of a similar type. In fact, over 50% of John Wayne’s movies were westerns.

Burgess Meredith, on the other hand, appeared in fewer but a greater variety of films: 42 dramas, 22 comedies, 8 adventures, as well as action, documentary, science fiction, horror, western, thrillers, crime, children, romance, mysteries, and even a musical and one animated film.

What can you take away from the Kevin Bacon game? If your network looks like Burgess Meredith’s career, with lots of variety and diversity, you’re probably doing great! But if your network resembles John Wayne’s career – lots of connections but from relatively few sources – you need to diversify.

To explore the real potential of your network, you need to live in lots of worlds – work, church, PTA, youth sports, trade association outside your profession, etc.

Networking Is Nothing New

Networking is simply human interaction and it has been with us since the beginning of time. These human interactions are really just the relationships we have with one another. How we connect. Some connections are passing. Some connections are more lasting. Some connections are seemingly lifelong.

Given this, networking is, more or less, really just human behavior. Talking. Listening. Understanding. Being empathetic, encouraging, inspiring, smiling, laughing, and being a friend. Thus, all human behaviors involving other people are relationship-based and is networking.

The wonderful thing about human behavior is that there are patterns to it. While the patterns may not be perfectly predictable – as you might find with a chemical reaction or a physics experiment – there are patterns generally there.

Whenever there are patterns, however, there is curiosity. And whenever there is curiosity, you will find people of science trying to explain the patterns through studying, observing, and examining them.

Human behavior involving our relationships is no different. The social sciences – sociology, psychology, and economics, just to name a few – for years have examined how humans relate to one another, both personally and professionally.

30-Second Commercial 8 of 8

If you think about it, considering all these different options and orders, there are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of different 30-second commercials for you. So, do not stop at just one. Rather, select a handful of the ones that you feel are the most powerful for you and where you are the most comfortable saying them. Go with these.

Like anything, however, you will not get good at delivering your 30-second commercials without preparation, planning and practice.

Write Them: Using something as basic as a small note pad or 3×5 cards, neatly write or type your commercials for future reference.

Review Them: Once you have them written out, keep them handy so that you can practice or review them from time to time (just a few minutes each week is plenty).

Use Them: When someone then asks, “Who are you?”, do not hesitate. Have the courage to launch into one of your 30-second commercials (picking the appropriate one for the time and place).

Refine Them: Your 30-second commercials are always a work in process. You should look for ways to update them to make them more clear or better represent you.


30-Second Commercial 7 of 8

An effective 30-second commercial is good but having more than one is better. You have a lot to offer and it won’t all fit in one commercial.

No two people are the same and no two situations are the same. Thus, it only stands to reason that you have different messages to fit different situations and people.

Plus, if you consistently say the same thing, it eventually becomes “white noise.” Don’t fall into the “one size fits all” trap. Consider the following:

  1. Develop a variety of Message Bodies – some informative or educational, others flippant or amusing, still others something with a little shock value (where you really want to grab some attention quickly).
  2. Vary the reason WHY people should refer you. What information about you or your company will instill confidence and boost your credibility? What makes you uniquely qualified or sets you apart?
  3. Vary the request. In some settings you can outright ask for people to refer you clients. In others, ask for a connection to a strategic partner (an accountant or attorney, perhaps). Or maybe you need to ask for information (such as details on networking events, job transition groups or background on people).

To summarize, make your 30-second commercials effective by having different Message Bodies, relying on different things to establish Confidence, and altering the Request.

The order in which you present this information can vary. The above framework is a suggested guide. It is not an ironclad rule of thumb. Lead with something to inspire confidence or, perhaps, your strong definite request, or even an amusing message body.

It does not matter how you slice or dice the framework. The key is conveying the message with all the bits and pieces in about 30 seconds.

30-Second Commercial 6 of 8

Now clearly articulating WHO you are, WHAT you do and WHY you are uniquely qualified is nice. However, in a sense, it is like having a souped up car with no wheels. To complete your 30-second commercial, you need to clearly state WHAT it is you need.

Now I hear lots of 30-second commercials and many of them have a weak finish. This is because they have a wimpy ASK or request. The best way to illustrate this is through an example … An example of what not to do. Do not make your HOW statement something like, “A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career.” Rather, here is a better example.

“If you know of someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career please introduce me to them.”

The main difference between these two is that the second has a “call to action.” If you see or know of this, please send it my way … Or give me their number … Or invite them to my seminar.

The first example … A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career … gives the same information, but it leaves someone wanting to say, “That’s nice.”

It is like my kids. They will say, “Dad, I am hungry.” And my response is, “Thanks. That is good to know.” They now know they need to make a Strong Definite Request. “Dad, can you cook me Mac-n-Cheese?” They are asking for action, which is far more powerful.

30-Second Commercial 5 of 8

Everyone has competition, including you. What makes you unique amongst your competition?

Again, WHY you? Your 30-second commercial needs to convey credibility and confidence that serves to answer that question before it is asked. Consider an example.

“Not only have I helped more than 100 people get into the right franchise, I also spent 10 years as a CPA … helping my clients know what they were getting.”

Who would a prospective franchisee prefer to work with? Just anyone or someone with this background? The answer should be obvious (at least the question was intended to be rhetorical). The point is that Inspiring Confidence (answering the “WHY you?”) is vital to your 30-second commercial.