5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Social Networking

Social NetworkingLinkedin, Twitter, FastPitch, BizNik,  Ecademy, Plaxo, HiveLive, Facebook, MySpace, and any of the 500 different sites online are all available to you if you choose to network online. However, how many and which ones should you belong to?

I am often asked  if I am able to track back any income from the social networking sites that I am on.  I am certain that I have indeed generated exposure and branding and I have been able to generate referrals for others in my network because of my membership.  I can track income because I have booked 2 speaking engagements via the sites.  and a couple of new coaching clients.  That being said, does the income match the time spent.

I do know that I easily spend at least ten minutes per day six days per week on the site for a total of one hour weekly.  At my current billing rate that is $125 per week multiplied by 52 weeks for a total of $6500. On average most people belong to 5 social networking sites, doing the same math above for all 5 sites I would spend a total of $32,500 per year on my social networking site.

Therefore, the question is how much is too much.  It really depends on what results you are trying to achieve in your activities.  I recently had a man who paints homes ask me if he should be on all of these sites promoting his business. If he were going to join one or two sites, which ones should he choose?   Here are the five tips that I gave to him.

1.  Find a local networking site, for instance, I am on Smaller Indiana. This would allow him to promote his business to people who might be willing to hire him.  Smaller Indiana is predominately people in Indiana who are in a variety of businesses.  Not for Profits, Professional Services, Business Owners, and Employees of companies are all members of this site.  The key is, they are local, so I can sit down and have a cup of coffee with anyone of them at any time and build a stronger relationship.

2.  Find an online networking group that has people with common interest.  Ning has a variety of these kinds of networks.   On Linkedin I belong to a Group that is made up of other BNI Directors.  We are able to share information, help one another and arrange to meet with each other at conferences.  I may or may not generate new business from this site, but I am able to build stronger relationships with those who are members because we have a common interest.

3.  Know why you want to join the group. Is it for information, connections, to sell your product or services, to develop your expertise or just to socialize?   I am a member of Ecademy.  This is the only group where I actually spend money to be a member.  Ecademy has a very international flavor and I want to make connections with people who can help me land more speaking engagements in the UK.  Last year when I spoke in Bristol, England, I had the opportunity to meet several of the people I had been networking with online.

4.  How much time do you want to spend online?  Online networking takes time just like face to face networking.  If your intention is to be known as an expert, you will have to spend time online blogging, spend time in discussions and commenting on other blogs.  Do the math, even if you are not paying to be on the site, you are paying in valuable time.

5. Free or Fee?  Most sites like Linkedin have a Free and a Premium membership. With the exception of Ecademy I am on the free memberships for all other sites.  Try the 30-day free trial that most sites offer, if you like it and want to get more involved, then you can purchase up.  Ecademy has two different levels that you can purchase; power networker and black star each are vastly different both in price and in access to the network.  I recommend the lowest priced level to start and once you know for sure that you are going to be consistent and use the site, then consider moving up.  Otherwise, it is like joining a gym; you make the payments every month and never go.

Just like face-to-face networking, you can waste a lot of valuable time and money if you do not have a plan and a system to utilize your network.  For me this is Visibility Networking, and some Credibility Networking.  I have been able to connect others in very powerful ways and that goes a long way to building trust with those I have made connections for.

If you are going to jump into this arena, you must have realistic expectations.

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Dating and Business Networking

Dating and business networking are in essence the same activity, they are both based on relationships that take time to create.  Both require that you take time to nurture and build the relationships to the mutual benefit of both parties.

I had a date with a guy that I had met briefly at a casual fund raising event.  He followed up and ask me out on a date.  I agreed and met him for a drink and a lite meal, all very casual, just as I would the first time that I set down with a fellow network member.   After about 2 hours of very casual conversation about our families, professions and hobbies  and a couple glasses of wine, he leans over and makes the following statement….”How about you and I go out to the car and make out like teenagers.”  When I said no, he called it a night, and has not contacted me again nor I him.   Wow, he completely destroyed his credibility with me.

Unfortunately,   I see this very same thing happen in business networking all the time.  One of the biggest mistakes that net-workers make is trying to rush the relationships.  Much like my date did.

Every relationship goes through a process, in the world of networking it is called the Referral Institute calls it The VCP Process  Here are each of the steps;

Visibility – this is the point in the relationship when you first meet.  You might have a conversation, trade contact information and move on.  This might happen several times.  The key to this level of relationship is that you remember the person.  That’s all, you just have to remember each other in order to have visibility.  There is just some basic knowledge of one another.  This is the phase that my date and I were in, just starting to gain knowledge about one another.

Credibility – this is the second phase of the relationship.  You have met each other several time, you have created trust with one another.  The longer that you know each other, work with each other, support each other the higher the credibility, the deeper the trust.   At this phase of the relationship you and your networking buddy begin help each other.  The relationship continues to grow.   There is trust in the relationships.  This would be the romance phase of the relationship when dating. Hanging out, doing things together and building the relationship that would lead to the next phase of the relationship. Possibly even, “Making out like teenagers.”

Profitability – this is the third phase of the relationship, complete trust in one another, you open your  network and customer database to each other and begin to take a proactive approach to helping each other.  You have a deeper understanding of each others businesses, and know how to develop referrals, connections and open doors for each other.   In the dating world, this could be engagement, moving in with each other, or possible marriage.

Like my date who wanted to go from “Visibility” straight to “High Level Credibility” many net-workers try to do the same thing.  After one or two casual conversation they are asking for referrals and connections before it is appropriate to do so. Or, they meet you and immediately go into a sales pitch, selling to you before they have even had the opportunity to create any kind of a relationship.  Instantly, they destroy their own credibility and lose the opportunity to create what might have been a successful relationship.  All because the rushed the process.

So, in dating and networking, SLOW DOWN, do not try to skip over phases of the relationship building process, take time to create a solid relationship, and don’t ask for something you have not taken the time to earn.

Make it easy for your referral sources

If you want to get more referrals from people in your network, you have to be able to make it easy for them to find and give those referrals to you.   They want to help you, but most will not step out of their comfort zone to make it happen,

Here are 5 things to help you start the process of making it easy;

1. What should I listen for? I am with people all of the time, and many of them are complaining about something, or sharing great news, or contemplating a decision. Each of these conversations present opportunities to develop referrals for you.

2. What visual clue might I see that would lead me to recommend or refer you? Are there things that are common to signals that a person might need you? Such as someone who’s car has a dent in it and you are an auto body shop owner.

3. Are there things that I might see that would help me recognize someone as your target market? Like a motor cycle or boat in a drive way for the insurance agent.

4. What kind of things might be happening that would lead me to believe that someone is in the market for your services? A child being born, and child going to college, or a new business that just opened?

5. Is there an activity that you clients often engage in? Such as running in mini-marathons, jogging, bike riding, working out, skiing, or any number of activities that would help me identify our clients?

The more you can paint a picture for your network members the easier it is going to be for them to help you. Unfortunately, this means that you have to give some thought to what and who you are looking for as clients. Anybody or everybody will not be as effective. Profile you clients and teach your network members how to spot the clues.

What were they thinking – 4 Biz Card Don’ts

business cards

business cards

I went to a networking event last week, and it was really a very good event, lots of vendors, lots of people in attendance and a great deal of networking going on.  But the one thing that I found very interesting was the very large table going down the center of one of the rooms.  On this table were hundreds of stacks of business cards and people were going around the table picking cards up from each of the stacks.  As I watched this go on, I had to ask myself; “What are they going to do with all of those cards that they are gathering?”

We become annoyed when people cold call us, we gripe, we complain and we sneer at the people calling us, but we put our cards out there for the taking.  Doesn’t laying your cards out on a table just cry out to others that you are open to be solicited? I know, I know, you thought that by having your business cards out there they were going to sell something for you,  not to you, right?

The next most common complaint that I hear from people everyday is the amount of Spam Email that they get.  Don’t you think that when you are laying your business cards out on a table for people to just pick up randomly you are asking to be put on a mailing list.

Here are 4 things that I do not recommend that you do with your business cards

1.  Don’t lay them out on a table so that others can just randomly pick them up.  There is no value in having a lot of people who have never met you, had a conversation with you or shaken your hand taking a bunch of your cards.

2.  Don’t put your cards on a bulletin board in the grocery store.  Let me ask you a question, have you ever made an appointment with a financial planner who’s card you pulled off of a bulletin board?  If you are the Financial Planner is this the level of clientele that you are really looking for?

3.  Don’t give your card to people who have not asked for it.  I go to networking event on occasion and I am amazed at how many people give me their business cards without ever having a conversation or little conversation with me.  Make sure that people ask for the card before you start handing them out.

4.  Don’t go around the room and lay one of your business cards all the way around the table.  I often see people lay their cards stuck in an ink pen with their logo around the tables of a networking event.  They want to make sure that everyone has their card.

Your business card is an extension of you and your business, it is the one thing that you leave behind that allows me to follow  up with you.  But, it does not sell anything and it does not create a relationship with me, that requires that you and I get face to face.

If you want to just randomly hand your cards out at least you should get something for it, so you can drop them into fish bowls and win free meals, free gym memberships, makeovers or a free financial reviews.  Just don’t be aggravated when you get cold called or spammed.

Twitter and My Network

twitterI am not a Techie but I do love technology and more than that, I love to network.  When I can combine the two together I am really happy.  Twitter has allowed me to do that!  One of the keys to nurturing your network is to stay in communication.  Communication also allows you to develop relationships that you can add to your network.  Twitter allows me to  maintain visibility and create credibility with my network.  Recently it has allowed me to create some profitability.

Here are some tips for those of you who want to use Twitter in your networking strategy.  These are a few things that you should know, beyond that have fun.

Important Things to Remember When Using Twitter

  • Be Authentic- Be you
  • Read Others Profiles and Tweets
  • Find Local People to Follow – Use Search for your town or city
  • Follow those who follow you – after you read their profile
  • Send a Personal Direct Message (DM)  to those who follow you
  • Do more than post your Blog or your website to the tweet stream
  • Retweet Others- Retweeting is key, when you read a good tweet, RT
  • Try to keep your follow/followers about even
  • Read and Comment on others Tweets/Blogs
  • Recommend others to follow
  • Keep it positive
  • Engage and again be Authentic
  • Go to some Local Tweetups & meet the people you have been tweeting with.
  • Follow your Network Members, you are able to communicate more frequently with them.
  • Lean more by following links that your followers will often provide.

Most of all, have fun, don’t become addicted, but be consistent in your tweets. You will find that you are starting to build relationships with some of the people you do not know and enriching those that you do.

Take Responsibility

Do you take responsibility for yourself and for your actions?  Even if you screw up by mistake, do you take responsibility for it?  Or do you cry to everyone, get others involved in your drama, make excuses, blame others, hideout, and avoid?

Amazingly more people behave as described above than those who take full, 100% responsibility.  This is not the kind of behavior that makes for a good referral partner.  It is important that we each take 100% Responsibility for what we do, both personally and professionally.

Integrity and ethics are built upon our taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions consistently, it requires that we speak up and say what is right, and when we are wrong.  Integrity and ethics are important to the referral relationship.  If your referral partners cannot trust 100% that you will act with integrity, ethics and responsibility they are not going to refer you business.

Ask yourself, do you take 100% responsibility or do you make excuses.  Do you speak up for what is right, or do you hope others will?  Do you divide or do you unite others?

Women are Natural Networkers

I have spent years networking with both men and women.  In that time I have noticed a lot of difference between how the two sexes network.  I have come to realize that Women  are really very natural networkers.

Building a strong network requires that you nurture the relationships that you have developed.  Women are very good at nurturing, they stop to do those little things that make others feel special.  They remember birthdays, they send cards, the give referrals and connections to others, and they volunteer to help whenever possible.

Women tend to be good listeners,  one of the most important traits of good networkers.  So they often hear the needs of others and seek to connect them to people who can fill those needs.  Acting as a matchmaker between the two.

Women understand and operate under the philosophy of givers gain naturally. They understand the old adage that it is better to give than to receive.  They are quick to give to others, they are quick to help, they are more than willing to introduce two people and help them to connect.

If you want to have a strong referral source in your network, ask a woman, she’s a natural.