Social networking isn't that different from real world networking. Here I want to look with you and see what you can learn about effective social networking approaches by considering:
- how networkers choose the right events to attend
- why networkers invest time in assessing the delegate list
- that effective networkers are naturals at sparking a conversation
- they ensure they have a great elevator pitch to deliver
Imagine you’re attending a business conference or careers fair. You want to win new contracts, strike up business partnerships or secure yourself a new job. You wouldn’t dream of announcing your presence via the delegate list and then sitting in the atrium to wait for things to happen. You wouldn’t would you?? You'd want to seek the right people out, build relationships, deliver your elevator pitch...
So why do so many business professionals do just that with their social media presence? Whether we’re talking about business people wanting to strike up new business relationships, or job seekers eager to network their way to a new job - it’s staggering just how many people take the “wait for them to come” approach to social networking.
So let’s draw an analogy with working the room at a physical conference or careers fair. What is it that YOU need to be doing to achieve your social networking goals?
Choose the right event to attend / the right social networking environments to frequent
Business developers wanting to build relationships will not necessarily blanket cover all events happening in their industry. Rather they’ll be highly selective in the events they attend, based on the profiles of delegates expected to attend and the event’s past success in generating worthwhile leads.
With social networking your approach should arguably be the same. There are dozens of different networks you could be a part of, but which are being actively used by the types of people you aspire to network with? A little time spent researching this at the outset could have a massive impact on the success of your social networking efforts. For example, one sector I do a lot of work in is the management and IT consulting sector. These professionals are well represented on LinkedIn – and also here on Social-Hire.com to a degree; but on Twitter they are hugely under-represented. Building a social networking strategy around Twitter would arguably be doomed to failure if this is the main audience being targeted.
Spend time assessing the delegate list / research who you want to reach out to
Another trait of highly successful networkers is that – once they’ve decided upon an event to attend – they’ll then invest time researching who is attending and draw up a target list of the people they’d most like to meet.
With social networking, the same principles hold true. Of the total audience of people you might interact with on any given social network, there’s a population you could define who are the people you’d most like to engage with. Untargeted activity on social networking sites is a bit lit wandering around a conference hall, talking to people without reading their name badges and singling out those you’re trying to meet. There’s a chance you’ll talk to a few good people if you work the room hard enough; but a far greater chance your attendance will produce results if you meticulously seek to engage with a target shortlist of individuals.
Be a natural at sparking a conversation and engaging with your target audience
Another trait of highly effective physical networkers is that they’ll be naturals for working a room and striking up conversations with the people they’ve identified they want to meet. They have a flair for engaging strangers in a way that is not at all salesy but that builds rapport with them in a way that gains trust and respect.
The same skill is of paramount importance in social networking. Your first points of contact need to revolve around you adding value to their professional lives – be that by you helping them, swapping experiences, learning from one another; anything that adds to your professional standing but that avoids talking about your real reasons for wanting to have a relationship with them (be that job hunting, business development, whatever)
The wonderful thing about social networking is that the above approaches can be so easily adapted from the world of physical events. Let’s take Twitter as an example. We can easily research the profiles of contacts we might like to make on Twitter. We can assess which of those contacts are regularly active on the network – and which have a token profile but little actual presence or engagement. We can add our targets to a twitter list, so that every day we can monitor what they are talking about, keeping our eyes open for opportunities to interact in ways that cause that first bond to be formed. And we can be disciplined in ensuring we add value to them professionally in those opening exchanges, rather than being sucked into giving a sales pitch (as might risk happening in a face-to-face scenario).
Prepare a great elevator pitch to deliver
Last but not least, those who are great at physical networking will almost always have crafted an elevator pitch in advance of the event – the exact words that they want to use to convey their business value at the point at which this comes up in conversation. They don’t leave this to chance and say things on the spur of the moment; they work out their precise wording in advance – and then refine and rework this wording based on the response it typically produces.
The exact same is something you can do with your social networking activities. I stress this particularly for jobseekers, where the overriding tendency is for people to appear desperate and needy when the chance to talk about their career situation presents itself. Take time instead to have written in advance the form of wording you’ll use to talk about your career and the next steps you aspire to take, so that you unquestionably come across as someone who’d be an asset to a business rather than someone who’s struggling to find work or getting increasingly desperate.
What other traits have you seen of people who are really great at working a room and getting results at physical networking events? How have you seen those characteristics applied to social networking success? Do share your thoughts via the comments section below – or with me directly on @tonyrestell
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