by Toni Smith
Networking has always been a business best practice, but in this day and age, one must stay abreast of how to best network. Using every avenue available to you is paramount and social media is no exception. Here are BCM’s tips for being a social media networking rock star.
2. Be strategic in who you reach out to – Make sure you know exactly what end result you’re striving for before reaching out to a prospective contact. Be certain they are in a line of work that can help you achieve your goal. The “spray and pray” method is not a good strategy and can ensure that you waste your time, as well as your prospect’s time and since time is money, you’ll want to be careful here. Nobody likes their resources wasted.
3. Don’t be presumptuous – Don’t assume that your contacts know who you are or what you’re trying to do. Don’t assume that they will be willing to help you, either. Confidence is a positive, but pride (false or otherwise) is not. This is essentially a pitch, so sell yourself!
4. It’s about them, not about you – networking, in its infancy, is about what you can do for a potential contact, not what they can do for you. Make sure your knowledge base and skills will be a value-add for your potential contact. Once you’ve proven yourself worthy, the relationship can and will progress from there.
5. Be up front about what you want – As stated in #2, nobody likes to have their time wasted. Be upfront and honest about what you want, and what you’re trying to do. Refer back to #4 and make sure you have offered the prospect something they can use, but also make sure that they know what you’re striving for as well. That way there’s no confusion regarding your goals, and everyone is on the same page.
6. This also a great spot to mention business cards. If you don’t have any, get some made ASAP! Vistaprint is a great place to start. The cards don’t have to be flashy, but do remember your card is like a tiny resume and it represents your brand. Keep that in mind when choosing a design. I like to recommend using a picture on your business card, as well. It keeps your face in your prospect’s mind and helps them to recognize you if you ever bump into them on the street or at an event.
7. Don’t be pushy; the best things come to those who wait - People tend to cultivate relationships naturally, and they do this on their own terms and in their own time. No good relationship is ever forced. Any good salesperson knows that, while follow up is great, there is a point where you can be too aggressive and scare a prospect away. The same is true with networking. You can’t force a relationship. Let things progress naturally, and what is supposed to happen will happen.
8. Follow up with contacts in a timely fashion – Do not, I repeat, DO NOT leave people hanging. In this world of relationship management all you have is your word, and if you don’t make good on your promises, you WILL fail. If you say you’re going to touch base with someone, do it. If you say you’re going to do something for somebody, make sure you do it. And make sure to do it in a timely manner. Most contacts will only give you one chance to make an impression, so you better make it count.
9. Make sure to acknowledge those who help you along the way - I saw an example of this on Twitter just the other day. An industry leader tweeted “If you act like you didn’t get a contact from me, I’ll act like I don’t know you when you need another one.” Relationships are EVERTHING no matter what industry you’re in. Don’t underestimate the power of a thank you note or email. Some consider it old school, but I think it’s just good manners. Show some appreciation for the time they spent with you. Be grateful. Always. Respect those who take the time to help you out, because they REALLY don’t have to.
10. Make sure to pay it forward – “Reach back; pull forward” is one of my favorite mottos. Hard work aside, with a few exceptions, no successful person got to his or her current position without an advocate in his or her corner. It’s a successful person’s responsibility to sow what he or she has reaped. It’s the law of reciprocity. You will always get back what you put out.
Don’t rely solely on social media only when it comes to networking - Real world connections are most important – No matter how convenient social media is, real world connections are key. Meet for coffee or a cocktail. Try to have a business lunch or dinner. You need to be able to shake someone’s hand. People tend to remember contacts that they’ve had real world connections with. Having a social media connection can be great, but it’s important to make sure you touch base with your contacts or prospects in real life if and when you get the chance. It can cultivate a more serious dialogue and solidify a more serious relationship. That, in turn, will turn a prospect into a serious business contact, and hopefully push you along to you final goal.