Social Media: A Networking Deterrent

Social media has created a real problem. It’s preventing us from making more and better personal connections. And nobody gets hired, booked, or referred without a personal connection.

That was the gist of my TEDx talk delivered to an audience of social media zealots that live and breathe LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. How many times today did you post, friend, unfriend, like, unlike, ping, tweet, poke, endorse, follow, invite, or “connect”?

I’m just saying.

I teach a public speaking class at Rutgers University where I’m working with students who were mostly born around 1993 – which is scary in and of itself. They need to know how to get into the workforce and land a job. And they don’t. I’ve incorporated a segment to the public speaking curriculum that I call How to Talk to People. You might call it networking. As a result, I watch students who are all of 18, 19, or 20 years of age throughout a 15 week semester make connections, find internship opportunities, and land jobs.

Pretty cool.

Their real life stories are shared with their classmates when it’s time to get in front of the room and speak which makes for great presentations and even great lessons learned. It’s pretty inspiring actually. These students will take those skills and continue to apply them in their careers (and lives). They will forever be conditioned to think about networking as simply where to go, what to say, and with whom.

It’s the same thing with the corporate groups I’m working with who aren’t much older. They’re struggling to make the sale (and succeed in their careers) because they haven’t figured out how to make more and better connections. Or how to talk to people.

Don’t get me wrong! Social media is here to stay. It has changed the way we learn, communicate, do business, land jobs, recruit, reconnect with long lost friends, and stay in touch.

But in many ways, all the time spent trying to “connect” with people online is preventing us from connecting with them offline. Think of how many job searchers (and sales people BTW) are hiding behind their computers for hours looking to make the connection but never follow through with a phone call or other initiatives to actually meet. They simply may not know what to say next.

Often, I volunteer to speak at networking groups focused on job search through the Department of Labor and other organizations. The rooms are typically filled to capacity. At one of the events, an older gentleman (as in older than me) shared with me that he was a big networker and had spent 11 hours on LinkedIn just yesterday. He had been in job search for a year and three months. After my talk on networking, he said he wished he would have met me a year and three months ago. I said you should have looked me up on LinkedIn!

Can you make this stuff up?

How many job searchers are out there struggling to pay their mortgage because they spend a year and three months and 11 hours a day on social media? How many business owners and sales people are in the same boat?

Great platforms like LinkedIn have become a networking deterrent. Sending notes and posting is comfortable, feels productive, and is somewhat anonymous. Unless you use those platforms to effectively set up meetings, have better conversations, learn, and establish real life relationships, not much will happen. And to make real life connections, you need to know how to talk to people and allow yourself to do just that.

Social media should be a part of your networking strategy; it shouldn’t be your networking strategy. Certainly, I’m active and have an impressive reach through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. But having more than 500 connections on LinkedIn or more than 20,000 followers doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re not generating more business or somehow expanding your reach through a powerful and valuable message, the amount of connections, followers, and friends mean nothing – unless your purpose is merely social. Anyway, I digress.

Here are some approaches to consider as you look to grow your business, land a job, or meet the love of your life. All important and all require a personal connection.

Networking Strategies
You must have them. Or be committed to developing them. There are plenty of books on the topic including mine. Bottom line, you must figure out where to go, what to say, and with whom to get whatever it is that you’re after. Networking is simply meeting the right people while looking to learn from and potentially help them. That’s it! If you focus on learning from and helping the right people, they often return the favor. And that’s networking! Look to create a collaborative relationship (redundant I know) with the people that are the best connected to those that can help you most. In fact, make a list (right now!) of those that you already know and those you need to know. Reach out to them to reconnect and to explore how you can help one another. Certainly, send them an email, note on LinkedIn, or simply make a phone call. (I think there’s an app for that.)

Social Media
OK, take that list from above and connect (or reconnect) with them on LinkedIn. Send a personal note, not one of those hokey generic notes – I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. It comes across as, well, hokey. More importantly, it’s generic and impersonal. I would suggest writing something like this.

Hello Dave! I hope all is well! I see we focus on working with the same type of clients. Would be great to connect and explore how we can help one another. Looking forward to meeting and discussing. Wrgds, Michael

Yes, I write notes like this every day. And they lead to more notes, phone calls, referrals, and clients. The important thing is to be persistent and consistent while looking to collaborate. Your approach should mirror networking – learning and helping. Also, try not to spend 11 hours a day writing notes and trying to make connections. I don’t spend more than 15 – 30 minutes a day handling all of my social media. That includes daily (business) posts to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, responding to mail, and connecting with targeted contacts I’m looking to ultimately meet. I will often post or respond to questions in groups that are in my target marketplace – which brings me to my next point.

Target Marketplace
You need a target marketplace. A target market is whom you serve best and therefore wish to serve most. Your social media strategy should be aligned with your target market. What industry, profession, market segment, niche, demographic, dynamic, geography do you want to work in or work for? Having a specific marketplace is important from both a networking and social media standpoint as it helps you focus your activity so it has the most impact and takes the least time.

Target Companies
Once you have a target marketplace, you can start to consider specific companies that you want as clients. This will help you further target your work through social media so you can start making connections with those aligned with companies you are researching. The same thing goes for real life networking as you think about the types of meetings you should be attending.

Networking Groups
If you’re serious and haven’t done a great job establishing yourself, you need them. Not all of them, just the ones that are aligned with your target marketplace and target companies. My two favorite types of groups are hard contact groups and professional associations. Hard contact groups are organizations that meet often (usually weekly), have only one person per profession (one CPA, real estate attorney, financial advisor, etc.) and rely on each other for referrals. The model works if you have strong committed attendees that collaborate well. Becoming part of professional associations within your target market is also important if you want to become a “player” within that marketplace. Often, you are the only one that does what you do! Imagine how that translates into the type of connections made both on and offline!

Staying in Touch
The glue that holds any marketing strategy together is staying in touch – out of sight is out of mind! Believe it! What do you do all day every day to stay in touch with the most influential people in your network? Your approach can’t be too salesy or promotional although there is a time and place for that. If you can focus on making the same amount of phone calls a day (10 calls before 10AM or 10 before 10), making the most out of your 30 minutes a day on social media, sending handwritten notes to true prospects and clients, and generating referral business for your referral sources, you’ll win the day. Just yesterday I sent a note through LI to a sales manager that used to work for one of my client firms. He’s now the general agent for his own life insurance firm. I wrote a note to simply check in to see how he was doing in his new role. His note led to a phone call and an engagement to work with his team. Of course, the connection was already there but the “checking in” note prompted a need and response. Out of sight is out of mind. Believe it!

I know these six areas are larger than life and topics all by themselves. And any one of them are the topic of many articles, blogs, and books. But these areas can be the start of a marketing plan that you can implement immediately. As in NOW!

Of course, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you want to learn more!
– See more at: http://www.networkingforproducers.com/social-media-a-networking-deterrent/#sthash.mXL1wWFj.dpuf

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