Making Business Networking Easier With Social Media
As the person most responsible for bringing in new business for my company, I have relied almost exclusively on traditional networking. For more than twenty-five years, this has worked well for me when it comes to lead generation. Meeting lots and lots of new people in different settings provides a never-ending source of prospects.
That’s not to say everyone is a potential customer. When it comes to networking, it’s important to have a broad-range view of relationship-building. The way I look at it, no matter who I meet, even if there’s not really an opportunity for them to buy printing from me, they are still likely to be a later source of referral or connection. I meet Person A one day and later I meet Person M, and it turns out that it would be mutually beneficial for M to meet A…and I get the opportunity to make that connection happen. That helps develop a stronger connection for me as well, which sets the scene nicely for doing business together in the future and for those ever-important referrals.
Many small business owners who are responsible for generating new business for their companies don’t always have the time to network in the traditional sense. Family obligations, production schedules and outside responsibilities may often take time away from mixers and meetings. That’s where “social media” can offer an advantage. There’s certainly still a time commitment required. But the convenience of networking via the Internet is that you can carve the time out when you want, and you don’t have to participate in a typical “5:30-7:30 after hours, right after work” scenario.
To move into social media networking in lieu of traditional networking, it makes sense to utilize some of the same rules that apply to traditional networking. First, learn how to “work a room.” One of the key elements for face-to-face networking is to meet as many people as possible. At a typical networking event, you’re really only making an initial connection, rather than developing the relationship on the spot. It’s important to make introductions, establish a quick connection that can be developed further at a later time, and then move on to meeting someone new.
To begin using a social media site such as LinkedIn, you do the same thing. To “work the room,” you start with the people you know and build your network from there by way of introductions. Common interests, similar backgrounds, comparable education…all are avenues for adding relative strangers to your network and developing stronger relationships. You build your network of connections and you work those connections.
In this way, social media sites are ideal for widening your base. In traditional networking, you would spend a fair amount of time getting to know someone, including learning about who else they know. With a site like LinkedIn, connections are immediately evident when you visit a person’s profile. With a bit of research, you can determine who among your associates knows someone you’d like to know better, and then you can ask for them to make an introduction.
Think of this as a very large mixer with almost everyone you have ever wanted to meet there…and you’re in your pajamas, sipping a glass of wine. No, really, this can work! Spend some time working a social media site such as LinkedIn as you would a mixer, and see what type of relationships you can develop to help you build the business you want.
If you are interested in learning more about the American Marketing Association – Inland Empire visit www.AMA-IE.org.
Becky Whatley, owner of Quality Printing in Riverside, consults with small businesses and nonprofit organizations to design effective marketing campaigns and promotional material. She is the immediate past president of the American Marketing Association – Inland Empire and chair of its upcoming LinkedIn seminar.