People that have succeeded in leveraging the power of social networking in their businesses have done more than just learn how to use the tools. They have learned how to think differently in three key areas: networking, building relationships and using their time.
1. You get more from social networks when you give.
Social networks are often approached by businesses as incredibly powerful tools for marketing to clients and prospects. Of course, you can market in social networks, but if that’s all you’re doing then you’re missing important opportunities to engage and build your brand.
Social networks are, first and foremost, social. That means they are reciprocal and conversational. Problem is, traditional marketing is mostly a one-way activity.
Think of social networks the way you think of the traditional breakfast networking meeting. If you show up each week and all you talk about is yourself and all you care about is leads, you’re not going to be the most popular guy. But if you show genuine interest in what others do and go out of your way to find leads for them, you’ll find that people reciprocate and become more engaged in helping you.
Here’s how to focus on helping, instead of marketing and selling in social networks:
- be generous and kind in your dealings with everyone
- add value with the information you share and comments you make
- invest in building network value by paying attention to what others are saying and sharing
- highlight others to draw attention to yourself
- pay it forward when you can
- be interested in others in order to be interesting
In other words, don’t just hire someone to dump marketing content into your feeds for you. Rather, invest your own time and energy in engaging people in your social networks.
2. Think of your network as an audience, not as leads in your sales funnel.
It is common to see the marketing and sales process as a funnel. Marketing activities generate leads that are moved through the funnel towards conversion. Leads that are not on the path to becoming a customer are ignored in favour of those that are.
Applying this kind of “funnel vision” in social networking can be limiting. Many of the least qualified leads in your network are more valuable to you as a pathway to qualified leads in their networks. Treat your network as an audience.
Highly engaged audience members will share your content and spread the word about your company, even if they’re not on the path to becoming a customer anytime soon.
When you view your network as an audience, then a number of strategic imperatives become clear:
- Think like a publisher and provide content your audience wants and needs.
- Develop a content strategy that attracts, engages and entertains your audience and they will spread the word for you.
3. Do more with your limited time by being an effective social networker.
This is perhaps the hardest idea for busy professionals to wrap their heads around. You are so busy with client meetings and in-person engagements that you can’t get your head around spending an hour a day engaging in online social networking.
Time is a zero-sum game. Whatever time you invest in one activity necessarily means less time available for another activity.
However, what inexperienced social networkers fail to realize is that they can get more value out of an hour of social networking than they can get from many of the competing uses of their time.
Social networks give you the potential to leverage finite time resources by extending the reach of “personal” communication. For instance, in one-on-one meetings with clients, you often repeat information – offering the same analysis, observations and reassurances over and over to one client at a time.
Effective use of social networks allow you to have a “social conversation” with many clients at the same time via blog posts, LinkedIn group discussions, content sharing, etc. These social conversations and archived content assets enable you to cover common material once, freeing up time for you to deliver more valuable and personalized one-on-one client attention, as required.
The key to making social networking work for you is to immerse yourself and treat it like a lifestyle, not a mere tactic.