Social media: a networking deterrent
By Michael Goldberg
Knock Out Networking
Don’t get me wrong; social media is here to stay. But in many ways, all the time spent trying to “connect” with people online is preventing us from connecting with them offline.
Social media has created a real problem. It’s preventing us from making authentic personal connections. And nobody gets hired, booked or referred without a personal connection.
I teach a public speaking class at Rutgers University where I’m working with students who were 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 which 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. It's pretty cool to see.
When it’s time to get in front of the room and speak, the students often share real-life stories, which makes for great presentations and even better lessons learned. It actually can get pretty inspiring. 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 quality) connections. They don't know 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 salespeople, by the way) are hiding behind their computers for hours looking to make the connection but never following through with a phone call or other initiatives to actually meet in person. They simply may not know what to say next.
Sometimes I volunteer to speak at networking groups focused on job searches 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 job-searching 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!"
How many people 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 salespeople 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; but it shouldn't be your networking strategy. Certainly I’m active and have an impressive reach on social networks, but having more than 500 connections on LinkedIn or more than 20,000 followers on Twitter 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 means nothing — unless your purpose is merely social.
Here are some approaches to consider as you look to grow your business, land a job or even meet the love of your life — all are important and all require a personal connection.
If you focus on learning from and helping the right people, they often return the favor. And that’s true networking. Look to create a collaborative relationship with the people who are most connected to those who can help you most. In fact, make a list (right now!) of those whom 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, a note on LinkedIn, or simply make a phone call.
OK, take that list from above and connect (or reconnect) with them on LinkedIn. Send a personal note, not one of those hokey automated notes that reads, "I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." That 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. It would be great to connect and explore how we can help one another. Looking forward to meeting and discussing. Regards, Michael
You need a target marketplace. A target market is made up of those 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 and 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 that it has the most impact and takes the least time.
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.
If you’re serious and haven’t done a great job establishing yourself, you need networking groups. 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. This model works if you have committed attendees who 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 who 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. You better believe that out of sight is out of mind. 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 10:00), making the most out of your 30 minutes a day on social media, sending hand-written notes to true prospects and clients, and generating business for your referral sources, then you'll be winning.
I sent a LinkedIn message to a sales manager who 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 “checking in” prompted a need and response.
Each of these areas could easily lend itself to its own article, but acknowledge their importance can be the start of a marketing plan that you can implement immediately — as in now.
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