Recently, I had the opportunity to present a Career Building event at Strayer University in Manassas, VA. My friend Amelia Stansell, a VP with BB&T, joined me in presenting a topic on professional networking and using social media to leverage your network. My next few posts will work through that presentation, highlighting Amelia’s principles for networking and then relating those principles to techniques for social media marketing.
Thanks to Jennifer Durand at Strayer University for inviting us to speak and to the students who participated with some great comments and questions!
The Enigma We Call “Networking”
Amelia begins her presentation by defining the enigma we call networking as “person to person relationship marketing. She emphasizes that it is taking the time with each individual to know them as a person and build a relationship. It’s these relationships that can help lead to either closing a sale with that person or getting a referral from them.
Social Media is a new technology that leverages proven networking techniques. The resulting value is that you can grow and manage a much larger network. Use tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to follow the lives and careers of your network, interact with them through posts and comments, and refer them through sharing and recommendations. These methods make it easier to interact with each person in your network between the meetings and phone calls. Try it and notice how your face-to-face conversations change from “how have you been” to “did your son get off to college ok?”. It’s a much deeper start to what will be a more productive conversation.
It’s About Getting More Referrals
Professional networkers will tell you that it’s all about the referral because it is more likely that you will get new business from a referral by your network than directly with someone in your network. Therefore, it’s important that your network trusts you, sees you as an expert and understands your business enough to recognize situations where they can make the referral. In traditional networking the process begins with the “elevator pitch” and initial meeting, then continues with follow-up meetings, networking groups, phone calls and promotional materials.
Social Media leverages these techniques by enabling you to post your basic information in online “profiles” and “info” pages. These provide the base background information about you and your business. Build trust and credibility online is a continual process of listening to your network by reading their posts, interacting with comments and questions, and consistently posting valuable and informative content for your audience.
Relationship Selling, Not Broadcast Advertising
Many business people approach their social media marketing as a broadcast advertising channel, a free way to reach more people with their message. For some businesses that have a huge fan base, it can certainly be used in that way. However, for most of us who count on sales through personal relationships and word-of-mouth, the approach needs to mirror solid networking techniques more than basic advertising principles.
Sigma College of Small Business Social Media Services help customers use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging to promote their business and themselves.
What are some tips and recommendations that you have for how to leverage social media to build your professional network?