Effective social networking isn’t about building out your Facebook profile correctly or using the right Twitter hashtags – it’s about promoting meaningful connections between people, no matter whether you do your networking online or offline.
So if you feel like you aren’t yet reaping all the benefit you could from your interpersonal connections or digital acquaintances, check out the following tips for improving your social networking skills:
Tip #1 – Be polite and professional
This should almost go without saying, but given the level of discourse that exists in some online arenas, it seems prudent to issue a reminder that first impressions still matter and that you can do a tremendous amount of damage with one poorly thought out statement. Whether you’re connecting with people online or offline, default to a polite and professional demeanor to avoid damaging your public perception before you even have the chance to form good connections.
Tip #2 – Focus on making connections
In many cases, the magic of social networking occurs when you take personal considerations out of the picture. Forget about how each contact you make will benefit you or your business in the long run and focus on how every new acquaintance you make can help others you know. As you get better about putting people in contact with others who can help them, you’ll start to see some of this generosity being returned to you in forms you may not expect.
Tip #3 – Don’t spam
Although there are plenty of people using social networking sites and offline business networking events to move products, keep in mind that their primary purpose is to build connections between people. While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your elevator pitch as an introduction, it shouldn’t be the only thing you bring to the table. Be helpful, polite and courteous – as your public perception grows, you’ll find people seeking out ways to buy from you without you having to resort to spammy sales tactics.
Tip #4 – Provide helpful information
Focusing on sharing helpful information – whether you do so in person or through the social networking sites you frequent – helps to build your perceived value and authority within your industry. And although you may not see an immediate return on the time you invest in helping to answer other peoples’ questions or solve their problems, trust that this goodwill and generosity will come back to you in the form of increased business opportunities in the future.
Tip #5 – Be a person, not a brand
Yes, building brand recognition is important, but that’s not what networking is about. Networking is about person to person connections, and there’s nothing cheesier than someone who insists on inserting brand mentions here where they don’t belong. Instead of thrusting your brand name upon people at every turn, trust that if you’re interesting enough as a person, people will seek out more information about you and your business.
Tip #6 – Follow up after each conversation
Remember how your grandmother told you to send a thank you note for every gift you received? Social networking works the same way! Whenever you make a new connection – even if you don’t think it’s a connection that will lead to opportunities down the line – make it a habit of following up with a quick email, phone call or mailed note. You’ll never know what a new connection could lead to unless you make it a priority to practice good follow up techniques.
Tip #7 – Explore new opportunities
With any business activity, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you in the past. However, this narrow mindset prevents you from identifying and taking advantages of new opportunities to build quality business connections when they appear.
So to avoid getting stuck in your “tried and true” approaches, make it a priority to seek out new opportunities to connect with people in your industry. Maybe it’s a local networking group in your area that you’ve never tried before or a conference you haven’t attended. You might even benefit from studying different methods for interacting on social networking websites and changing your strategies if you haven’t seen good results with these sites in the past.
Tip #8 – Ask to help out
Whether you attend offline networking events or participate in online social gatherings, there’s always an organizational component that must be overseen for the event to run smoothly. In some cases, these organizers commit their time out of love for the project. But in many other instances, these managers are overworked and overstressed themselves – meaning that an offer of assistance will go a long way towards forming a valuable new connection.
Truly, all of these tips point to one thing – that the “Golden Rule” applies to social networking as much as anything else. Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated through your online and offline networking activities, and you’ll be amazed at the results!