One of the issues I run into with social networking is that most of the businesses who have heard about it are focused on it primarily as a way of getting business. And when they don’t get business right away they get disheartened and feel that it isn’t working for them. Or they decide right away to use social networking as a way to advertise their business, but don’t really engage the audience.
Social media consultants, in the meantime, stress authenticity and genuine engagement, but also again focus primarily on how social media will provide more business to a business. In fact, it seems that what social networking really boils down to is finding ways to get business from other people on social sites, while disguising that by being “genuine” and “authentic”, whatever that might mean.
There’s a key element missing from all the hype on social networking, and it actually pertains to the word networking. What’s missing is that people on social networking sites are so focused on trying to get business from social networks that they are ignoring the concept of networking and how that applies to social networking. In other words, they primarily treat social networking as a feed, where they get lots of clients, but don’t care as much about the networking aspects involved.
It’s certainly true that social networking can be used to market your services and products to other people, but if we only focus on that, and ignore the networking aspect of social networking, we’re not fully utilizing social networking sites. So how does networking apply to social networking? First, social networks connect you with people you either know or are interested in getting to know. Second, as you get to know people and discover what their needs are, or discover what someone in their network needs, this can pave the way toward you helping them. Sometimes how you will help them simply involves referring them to someone else who you know is qualified to help them. With that concept of networking in mind for social networking, the following tips are meant to help you take your social networking to the next level.
1. Comment on what other people post or tweet about. If you want to network with people, you need to interact with them. Spend some time commenting on other people’s news, tweets, and posts. By doing so, you show you are interested in them, and you can even portray yourself as a resource they can draw on, if they need to. Additionally, this lets them get to know you as well, and you may seem more interaction when you post as a result.
2. Pay attention to what people need. A lot of people will post about something they need or a situation they are in. If they do so, try to think of who you know in your network that you can connect them to and then send a private message offering to connect the people. This is a good way to be helpful and will help not just the person in need, but also anyone you direct them to. Additionally, this shows that you are paying attention to what people are posting about and helping them out, even if it doesn’t bring you a profit. Conversely, don’t be afraid to post about what you need. I’ve gotten some great responses from people, when I’ve asked questions about something I wanted to know about.
3. Post about some interests or fun facts. While people may not necessarily want to know about what you ate for dinner (unless you include a link to the recipe), they may find it interesting to learn about the latest book you’re reading or a fun hobby you do, because it shows them that you have more going in your life than just business. It creates opportunities for interaction, lets people in, and the conversation can sometimes take you into some useful directions for your business, while also creating enough of a personal connection that people find you interesting to follow.
4. Think of people you can connect to each other, based on mutual interests. I always really appreciate it when people connect me to other people that share similar interests. I also appreciate it when people connect me to someone who might need my services. When you first start following someone, ask them who they’d like to be connected to, or after you’ve read some of their posts and tweets, think about someone you could connect them with. By making those connections you can help people develop a strong network of referrers and possible clients, which is always appreciated.
5. Don’t come to on social media sites with an expectation that you’ll automatically get business. This last tip is probably the most important. If you come on to social networks only looking to get business, this will become apparent to people fairly quick and will ultimately alienate you from them. Treat people as people, not potential clients or customers you want money from. I’m not saying you’ll never get business from social networking sites. I’ve gotten business from social networking sites, but it’s taken time and a willingness to get to know people and not perceive them from the getgo as potential marks or clients I can get income from. And that’s exactly what you need to remember. Don’t go with a specific objective of getting business. Sign up and join in because you want to share some information and learn from other people. Continue participating on a regular basis and let people continue to get to know you. And eventually you might get some business with people you know and will actually take care of, because you know them.
Social networking is still networking. If we remember that and approach it as a networking activity, we will actually get much further with it, than if we are just trying to get business from it. People want to be treated like people and communities want to feel like they are engaged with, as opposed to sold to. Keep the above tips in mind, and you’ll create a strong online network that supports you, even as your in-person network does the same.