Social networking for business is about connecting with a purpose, not just connecting. We’re all busy, and business demands a strategic approach.
The process goes something like this: you do your research, identify centers of influence based on your goals — as Lena West defines it, “People who you know, who know the people you need to know” — and then uncover ways to connect.
To be effective, this kind of engagement requires a human touch, and you don’t always know where it will lead. Over time, newer connections can transition from a name on a Twitter follower list or a loosely acquainted friend on Facebook or Linked in, to someone you would be willing to help, and who is willing to help you. The magical social media trifecta at work: Know, Like, Trust!
Here are some personal examples: In the last 72 hours:
1. I had an actual (not virtual!) cup of coffee with a fellow social media professional who works for a PR firm. We met online, then had a face to face meeting. Business potential? Who knows, but it doesn’t really matter. Knowing him enlarges my perspective, as well as my circle.
2. I posted a slide share presentation, and asked for comments online. Social media friends went out of their way to critique and make helpful suggestions, resulting in a much better presentation (and the elimination of an embarrassing typo! Thanks, Chris R., Sherry, Amy).
3. I changed my twitter handle recently, but missed an important procedural detail. One of my Twitter friends had my back. He DM-ed me within minutes, to coach me though the change.(Thanks, @gnosisarts , founder of this internet and social media PR firm.).
4. Connected with someone I met under a year ago. When I expressed interest in meeting someone he knows, he connected us. In our last phone call, he also gave me the inside scoop on some important trends related to social media metrics and monitoring tools.
I can offer many more examples. The point? With all the talk of ROI — and I’m a big believer in metrics and measurement, don’t get me wrong — these informal social media connections and the interactions that result don’t often get discussed, but are no less important.
When prospective clients ask me about Social Media ROI, how do I explain this phenomenon? You can put all the right mechanisms in place, but if you fail to develop a touch for networking, maybe nothing happens. If you do it right, the business opportunities that grow out of unexpected relationships can be the best ones. Even if they don’t lead to direct business, if they help you to do a better job, what’s that worth?
Bottom line? Have a purpose, be smart and focused about your social media interactions. But, don’t be all business 24/7, leave room for personal interaction.
Please weigh in: have you ever experienced the side benefits of what initially started out as a routine social media interaction? Or the flip side: known someone who lacked the social media engagement “gene”, despite your best coaching?