How many times has someone said to you “social networking, it’s not for me” and when you ask them why they say something like “I don’t have time” or “I don’t want to hear about people having coffee all day long”. Often, this sort of reply can be a mask for “I don’t know what to do or why I’d do it”. After all, it can be quite overwhelming to have status updates, news about discussions in groups or tweets coming at you if you aren’t prepared. And yet the reality is that it’s quite simple to get involved in social networking, because all you have to do is take your off-line networking skills and apply them on-line.
But have you really thought about what those off-line networking skills are and how you might apply them on the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter?
Let’s have a look at what the average networker might do at a networking meeting they’re attending:
The first thing they are going to do is prepare. They will ask for a list of the people attending from the organiser and then craft an introduction they can use when they are asked the question “So, what do you do?”
When they arrive at the meeting, they will introduce themselves to a few people, say hello to those they already know and get any new people involved in conversations.
They will also be listening out for cues like “I’d really like some help with …” or “I’m finding it difficult to recruit ……” or “I’m opening up in a new area and I’d like ….” They might respond to these by saying “let me introduce you to …” someone in the room or another they know, like and trust.
Of course, a networking meeting doesn’t end at the door; it goes on beyond that and good networkers will follow up with the people they’ve met, perhaps arranging to have a chat or to send any details they promised.
So, how do you replicate these sorts of actions online?
Preparation is the key and in the on-line world this will typically mean preparing your profile or biography to accurately represent who you are and what you do. It will also mean deciding which of the networks is most likely to contain the people you would like to meet and help.
Once you have joined a network and set your profile up then you can say ‘hello’ by sharing status updates about your business, your industry and other key information that readers may find useful. You might get involved in a discussion or answer some questions.
The cues you listen out for in a room are also prevalent on-line and can take the form of requests for help in all sorts of different places; spotting them quickly and responding to them by introducing the questioner to someone you know helps raise your profile significantly.
Finally, you will follow up on everything you and others do. At the very least you will say thank you when someone shares something you’ve said with their network; you’ll reply to the messages you receive and you can help cement a new face-to-face contact by connecting with them online as well.
Of course there are many more things you could do but, if you do nothing more than these four simple actions then you will well on the way to becoming an on-line networker with influence.