Remember the old saying, It’s better to give than to receive? That simple expression can apply to so many aspects of life.
I believe it can even apply to the practice of networking these days. We all know that networking in business circles is the rage in the quest to find contacts and leads to grow a business. Anyone can work a crowd by going around saying, “Hi Joe, my name is Mary, I am the sales manager of XYZ. Need any widgets, these days?” Admittedly, such an introduction sounds a bit crass and you might not win many friends with a line like that. I am sure you can picture the stereotyped used car salesman whose only objective is to close the sale and run. The shortrun is all that counts in that situation.
Instead, a better strategy is to focus on establishing a rapport and even forming a bond with someone you may have only just met. That’s just a start. Then, share information, offer expertise, and provide suggestions. It will should show that you are more interested in goodwill than making a quick sale. Remember, the saying, It’s better to give then to receive”.
It can even apply to the management of a business web site, or blogs, Facebook and more. The practice of sharing helpful information with customers or contacts will go a long way to establishing meaningful relationships. When used effectively, you will very likely gain even more customers and more business.
If you are running a small business, taking advantage of social media tools can be the great leveler between you and the big boys. Can’t afford expensive ad campaigns on television or radio? No problem. Channels such as the Internet combined with mobile technology should be your friend. The beauty of an online presence is that a well-designed web site and its trimmings can make your company appear larger than it actually may actually be. Who can tell a “mom and pop” operation from the behemoth anymore? If your company is internet-based, who knows if you even have a warehouse full of inventory. The manufacturer or distributor can be carrying it all for you.
About social media. Develop a dialogue with your customers. That’s what it’s all about today. By establishing a direct communication link between you and your customers, you learn about their likes and dislikes. They will tell you what they like about your products, your customer service and more. Isn’t that what you should want anyway? Your customers can help you hone what to sell and improve your level of service with the feedback they provide.
So, develop a conversation with your customers through the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Let them know about promotions with a Tweet. Enable your customers to post comments on Facebook. Why not share your expertise by writing postings to a blog linked to your web site.
If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of books out there about social media and small business. The more you read and observe how others are using it, the more it will make sense. One book I recommend is the Complete Idiots Guide to Social Media Marketing by Jennifer Abernethy. It’s fairly comprehensive and easy to follow.
The easiet way to get a job has always been about networking. We used to call it “connections.” But, how many people in this world have great connections – from a rich dad or uncle?
Before the age of the Internet, most people looking for jobs would apply to listings they found in the classifieds or register with employment agencies or recruiters. It was a rather passive approach and depending upon the vibrance of the market, it could be slow going. By the time a job would find its way into a newsaper column, the applicant could be competing against a cast of hundreds.
A recruiter advised me years ago to get on the phone and call away. So, I created lists of companies and contacts from directories I found in the library. Even though I wasn’t meeting the person face-to-face, it sure felt scary. Early in my career, I called Time Inc in New York, expecting to get the executive secretary on the phone but I reached the company treasurer instead. Imagine, he didn’t even bite my head off. It really caught me by surprise though.
During my days of cold calling, I actually found some nice people on the phone. They agreed to meet with me, provide some words of advice and maybe even a lead for a job or two. No one bit my head off.
With social networking, it doesn’t have to be so intimidating. LinkedIn is a great medium to find contacts. By searching by job title/description and geographic location, potential contacts are only a click away. If you have already built up a sizable network, you might find that those contacts are well within reach. Otherwise, if wouldn’t be too difficult to contact people the old-fashioned way.
So, get out there and network!
Some fine friends of mine introduced me to Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-In and I obliged by setting up my own accounts. Since then, I have said, “Now, what do I do? I don’t have a lot of idle time on my hands, so, see little need to find things to fill up time. Facebook appears to be a good way of keeping up with friends, family and any other informal relationships. It’s been fun to seek out long lost friends, classmates, family etc. To me, that’s about it for Facebook. I can’t quite see the professional application of Facebook based on how most people seemed to be using it.
In 140 characters, how much can you say in Twitter unless you link it to a blog or some other social media tool. That’s what some people do.
Now, that leaves Linked-In for professional use. Yes, I think I have finally figured it out and it’s all about networking. You can branch out in unlimited ways and share resources, tips, contacts, and information.
In WSJ’s, “The Care and Feeding of Network Contacts”, it’s summed up very well. Dipchand “Deep” Nishar, vice president of products at LinkedIn Corp keeps his personal and pr0fessional networks separate. It now makes sense to me.