Friday, October 29, 2010

Relationship Building Online Through Social Networking - Does It Work?

Relationship Building Online Through Social Networking - Does It Work?

In the sales industry there is still a big push towards closing a sale, and the traditional scripts and dialogues approach rather than genuinely connecting with people and building a lifetime relationship that leads to repeat and referral business.

My philosophy is that relationships are everything in life and business and there is no greater way or faster way to leverage your business than through relationships.

So where do we find people to meet and how can you fit it all in?

I love to network but I really dislike the word. It sounds so strategic. I believe it is nothing more than focused socialising. The definition of a network is: 'an interconnected system of things or people' and everyone should create a strong network to support his or her business. A good network should fill in the gaps where you yourself are perhaps not quite as strong and enhance and support your business.

Now times are changing rapidly and of course there is the traditional method of attending networking events which I do 2-3 times per week and nothing beats that face to face connection however from a time perspective it can take 2-3 hours out of your day to attend just one event. One of the latest trend is towards online networking which for introverts is especially welcomed as they don't need to meet anyone face to face. It also saves you time as you really only need to be spending 10-20 minutes every other day to maintain your presence and build relationships online.

There is still a fair amount of skepticism around whether you actually get results from online networks like twitter and Facebook. For me the answer is an emphatic yes. Personally I have generated work from contacts I have met through friends of friends and it has expanded my network. I believe one of the core benefits is that you are able to transition a relationship from business to personal which means you can forge a connection faster. For example people may share what they are up to on holidays or pictures of their family which allows you a window into their personal world.

Now there are many online sites out there the big 4 are considered to be

Linked In
Twitter &

They all serve different purposes and attract different demographics.

Facebook is by far the more personal site and if you were in the real world this is more like a family reunion. It allows you to share pictures and posts on what you are doing.

Linked In; Is more like attending a business networking event and certainly has a more professional feel. You can ask questions and get advise on business ideas, posts are generally related to what you are doing in the business world, what books your reading or links to information others would find of value.

Twitter is more like being at a huge party, with people having 10's of thousands of global followers. It is based around the question 'what are you doing right now' with answers restricted to 140 characters.

Now if you are getting started there are some faux pas to look out for.

The rules of the game are very similar to if you were in the real world. With twitter for example you follow people. Now you wouldn't turn up at a party and start following someone and not have a conversation with them or just stand behind them looking over their shoulder or immediately try to sell them something. You cant follow people on twitter and not interact. It is all about conversations.

The most important rule with social networking is don't sell! with any kind of networking it is not about money its about building relationships beyond the dollar, you get so many other benefits from these relationships but you must be patient. Remember people don't care what you do till they know who you are.

Now this can be difficult for some to understand at first. How do we get people to know us particularly with online networks as your not meeting face to face?

For me the key is being willing to be open and share parts of yourself. I have seen many people join Facebook and then load in 1 or 2 profile photos, now when I am on there I want to get to know them I want to see their family or dog or holiday photos and know what they have been up to otherwise why bother being on there. It can leave you feeling like their not sharing & the whole point of being on there is to connect and have conversations.

People want to get to know each other on a deeper level. Authenticity is said to be the new buzzword of the 21st century and its about people wanting something real from someone genuine. So be open. At the same time we don't want to know what you ate for breakfast. There is a fine line on sharing too much and appropriate sharing. You need to be careful that your not posting inappropriate images that a colleague, boss or client shouldn't be seeing. Once its out there on the internet it's out there forever.

The biggest challenge I see most people face with networking. Is they just don't give it a real go. They get online or turn up at an event and think...that didn't work I didn't meet anyone. When I first joined twitter I anyone listening or am I tweeting to myself. It takes time to get to know the rules of the game and build followers and get to know people. My advise is

Start slow & learn the rules (Google & webinars have great resources for starting out)
Don't get overwhelmed (there is a lot to learn at first so pick one site at a time)
Be consistent (allocate 10 minutes a day and start getting followers and uploading info)
Be persistent (don't give up, give it 6 -12 months

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