There is no question that social networks play an increasingly important and necessary role in today’s complex and competitive business environment. The question is “how to effectively implement and leverage them for tangible results?” Here are what I consider to be the (not so) secret keys that unlocking tangible online networking results.
Be visible. This goes way beyond the obvious “have a profile”. It entails a commitment to being present in your online environment(s) on an on-going basis via personal updates, contributing comments, sharing information and asking and/or answering questions. Remember, every activity is broadcast to your network and is an opportunity to stay top-of-mind, much like attending events would contribute to building your credibility and professionalism in a real-life networking group. NOTE: frequency should be a minimum of twice weekly and optimal impact occurs at daily visibility.
Be strategic. Being visible is important, and when applied in conjunction with strategic impact, it leads to success more quickly. Being strategic starts with zeroing in on one online network instead of many, involves a planned approach around specific target areas and maintains consistent, lazer-focused activity. The face-to-face analogy would be to join only one group, review the member directory to identify the highest-probability prospects, then attend events with the specific intention to meet and build relationships with these highest-value contacts.
NOTE: strategy works best when applied to a particular industry, market or demographic.
Be outcome-focused. Like any other professional activity, online networking should be done with specific outcomes in mind. With this as a starting point, it is possible to monitor activity, measure performance, maintain motivation. This is best done with a number of business-related areas in mind: connection growth (online, size does matter), connection quality (relative to target market), connection conversion (ability to move relationship forward) and outcome (meeting, presentation, sale, referral). NOTE: what gets measured, gets done.
Be pro-active. There is a tendency to presume that an online network will, in and of itself, deliver results. This is not only a fallacy, it is a recipe for disaster. Fact: online networks were created to support and maximize relationships. Unless and until you incorporate the human dynamic, nothing substantial will happen. The context for contact is there, either in the link itself (if suggested by the network), their request for contact (they see value in you) or your request (you see value in them). Leverage it to create a personal contact, which will act as the spark that ignites a relationship. Take full and complete responsibility for growing the relationship. Hard as this seems, it’s necessary for success.
NOTE: this is the most-overlooked factor in successfully leveraging an online network.
Be patient. We live in a me-first, instant-gratification society. There is a presumption that simply joining an online network and accepting requests to connect will lead to overnight success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Online networking success is a process, not an activity. Implementing an online networking strategy can, and does, act as a cornerstone business development or career enhancing option. Success in business and in life is all about relationships. Relationships, take time, require investment and need to be nurtured.
NOTE: how long is your sales cycle (6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months)? Keep this in mind as you network online.
Each of the above components requires a set of tactics that are unique to you, customized for your products/services, targeted to your market and relate to your company.
|Michael J Hughes, North America’s Networking Guru specializes in helping professionals increase results by improving their ability to maximize relationships. He has done extensive research on and is a specialist in, utilizing networking as a business strategy.His client list includes names like Dell, Royal Bank, Sales & Marketing Executives International, Sunlife, Workopolis and the University of Ottawa’s Telfer EMBA program. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org|