The Power Of Networking

Doing business on Social Media has absolutely nothing to do with technology.

The Power Of NetworkingStretch your memory muscles and remember the various successes that you have enjoyed as a result of networking with others. With a little bit of prodding, we all can remember getting to know various customers and finding that we had colleagues or friends in common. There may have been times when one friend introduced you to another and that new relationship evolved into a strong business partnership.

One of the skills that leaders in every field of business seem to master is the art of giving. And the art of giving has absolutely nothing to do with technology. Let me repeat: Doing business on Social Media has absolutely nothing to do with technology or even computers. It has everything to do with people skills and developing relationships with the folks who are most likely to be potential customers.

To do business on Social Media, we must simply apply those same skills that have worked in real face-to-face situations to this new platform. When it comes to building and fostering business relationships that drive business, there is no better tool than Social Media. But like all tools, the Social Media tool will function optimally if and when we know how best to use it.

The Power of Giving
American author, salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” Or maybe you prefer another version: “The more you give, the more you receive.”

In the Social Media world, we put this thought into action by demonstrating a willingness to help others. We can demonstrate a generous spirit by sharing information that is of value to others or even by publicly paying someone a compliment (otherwise called a shout out). In other words, we do what has worked in real life: We share information about something that we have knowledge of, or we compliment someone as a part of networking. These are all actions that are commonplace in business-to-business environments.

Let’s talk about how to become popular on a Social Media platform.

The Power of the Blog
An easy way to share information with your prospects and customers is to publish a blog. A true blog shares information that is of value to the reader. It may be a link to an article that you read or a solution to a common problem. You could blog about attending a convention and a conversation that you participated in or a speaker that you heard. Or maybe include a tidbit about a new employee. A blog is essentially a journal or a diary written several times a week.

When your blog is posted to your website, you benefit in several ways:

1. Traffic increases due to the fact that you are adding new material frequently.

2. Your search engine rankings increase as your readers click on your website more frequently and now have reason to link to your website.

3. You automatically enhance your search engine friendliness when writing in the language that your customers use when searching for you.

If you are not a frustrated writer at heart, find someone who has knowledge of our industry and delegate the responsibility to them. The blogger must have the time to write a few times each week and also the time to promptly respond to the followers who write to him or her. The writer needs to be able to talk the language of the person who makes the purchasing decisions (after all, that’s who you want as a reader, correct?).

When your blog is posted to your website, you benefit in several ways. First, traffic increases due to the fact that you are adding new material frequently. Second, your search engine rankings increase as your readers click on your website more frequently and now have reason to link to your website. Third, you automatically enhance your search engine friendliness when writing in the language that your customers use when searching for you.

But the most important advantage garnered from blogging is that you are gifting your prospects and customers with information that is of value to them. And if we believe in the law of reciprocity (the more we give, the more we receive), our businesses stand to benefit in a huge way. One word of caution: This information of value is not a sales pitch on your newest product or promotion (even though you believe that promotion is of value to the reader). No one will return to your website twice a week just to hear a sales promotion.

Here’s a kicker: As your reader begins to follow your writing, that reader will form a bond with you. It is no accident that the most successful news anchors and talk show hosts generate a sense of intimacy with a loyal audience. There is a relationship there (however one-sided). How many of us felt like we knew Johnny or Jay or Oprah (last names like Carson, Leno and Winfrey are no longer needed)?

The Power of a Compliment
We have seen what a simple compliment can do when passed on in a face-to-face situation. A powerful reference can often mean the difference between winning and losing a sale. While it’s very simple to “like” someone who has “liked” you on Facebook or “follow” someone on Twitter, the real value comes to those who expend a little effort. Isn’t that always the case?

Now it’s my turn to share some really valuable information. Writing a recommendation for a contact on LinkedIn is pure gold. LinkedIn plays host to the largest database of professionals in the world. It is safe to assume that potential customers are represented on the site. While many folks find it difficult to use LinkedIn as a marketing tool, I’d like to share a very simple way to connect with dozens of potential customers, while demonstrating your generous spirit.

Here’s how to make it work for your company.

Take a look at your current contacts on LinkedIn. Look at who they are connected to (if they make their roster of contacts visible to others). Pay special attention to those who are connected to existing or potential customers.

LinkedIn plays host to the largest database of professionals in the world. It is safe to assume that potential customers are represented on the site.

Provided it is sincere, craft a short message as a recommendation highlighting something positive about your contact. But in the first paragraph of that recommendation, introduce yourself. Provide some sort of context for your recommendation by explaining what your company does and what you do. In the next one or two paragraphs, write about your contact and why you believe they are an asset to their company, to their customers, or to their community.

That recommendation will be shared with each of your friend’s contacts. You have publicly highlighted your contact’s talents and strengths as a professional. Who doesn’t appreciate a few kind words about their strengths as a professional? That recommendation will also remain a part of your contact’s profile on LinkedIn. Anyone reading your contact’s profile in the future will also benefit from reading the recommendation that you were good enough to write.

The benefit to you is simple: You have generously singled out the professional strengths of a contact and in the process introduced yourself (and your company) to all of your contact’s contacts. Additionally, you have introduced yourself and your company to anyone who reads that recommendation in the future.

Is your friend likely to offer to write a recommendation for you? Maybe. But even if he doesn’t, you have done something nice and no good deed goes unrewarded.

The Power of Reciprocity
The more thoughtful and considerate you are and the more that you share with others, the more likely it is that they will do the same. These are normal human reactions. Just avoid giving the impression that you are owed some sort of good deed in return for what you do. No one online or in real life owes you anything as payment for when you are nice to them. As in real life, relationships are based on give and take. Just as in real life, if two people in a relationship maintain an interest in the other’s well being, both will get what they want out of the relationship.

In the June 2012 issue, Judy Flanagan suggested ways on how to avoid the Pitfalls of Social Media. You can read those suggestions again online at www.WeldingAndGasesToday.org.

People do business with people. Social Media is simply a business tool, not unlike other networking tools. We all have experienced networking successes in various environments, whether at a Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce meeting or playing golf with a friend of a friend. In talking with others, we have shared information that someone may find value in. We have singled out an associate and paid him or her a compliment as part of a conversation. To succeed at networking on the various Social Media platforms, we just need to practice the same actions that have worked for all of us in face-to-face situations.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Judy C. Flanagan Meet the Author
Judy C. Flanagan, publisher of Welding & Gases Today, is president of Data Key Communications and COO of Social Business Inc., located in Dewitt, New York, and on the Web at www.socialbusinessinc.net.