I like to look at social networking as a virtual mirror of real life networking. The way I see it real life networking can be broken down into 3 basic aspects which can be virtually replicated.
The goal of networking is to eventually provide a good or service to a prospect. When your prospects need the service you provide you want them to come to you and not go to your competitor. This is what I refer to as the professional aspect of networking: keeping your prospects informed you are there to service their need.
2. Personal Aspect
People like to work with people they know and trust. The way I do this traditionally is by going to clients parties or inviting them to mine. If a client accomplishes something or has a life changing event I might send them a card or give them a call. By keeping up with what’s going on in their life I am aware of key indicators of when they may need my service.
3. Reference Aspect
Sometimes as a professional I get calls asking for advice in certain areas that may not be my exact business or something I will get paid for. Clients may call me to ask what going lease rates are, what it takes to rezone a property, or ask me what the new changes are to title insurance. If I become aware of new information I will also share it on my own accord if I feel it’s that important.
As I mentioned above these three aspects of networking have a virtual mirror that can be used to accomplish the same tasks and usually accomplish them more efficiently. Traditional networking in no way should be cut out or limited but think of these three social networking sites as the virtual interpretation, or what I call the “Social Network Trifecta”.
This is where you present your professional self. It is what I call your “living resume”. It contains your education history, your job history, and references from other members. It takes the resume a step further by adding your links to websites, summary’s of what you do, and the ability to answer questions site wide and get labeled as an expert by real people. This is completely professional just like your real life office. You don’t want to share pictures of parties or what church you attend, strictly professional folks.
Facebook allows you to take the personal aspect of relationships online. The personal aspect of networking can sometimes be tedious and most time consuming and Facebook allows you to consolidate that. Whenever you make status updates your whole network can see what your doing. You don’t have to tell people one at a time or rely on word of mouth, they can see it without ever talking to anyone! The great thing is you can do the same thing with your clients. By monitoring their facebook status, links they upload, pictures they share, and many other things you know what’s going on. That way you can save 15 minutes at the supermarket hearing the backstory of their latest life event and simply say “I noticed you now have a grandchild, don’t you love it?” This is also a great way to be instantly clued in to their life changing events that may hint at their need for your service.
The final aspect of the trifecta is probably the least understood. I don’t expect you to fully understand it but hopefully at leasat you will get the point. As I’m sure you guessed this is where you can become a reference. One of the best ways is to write blogs and use twitter to drive people to them. You can also search keywords and find people asking about things you are an expert in. If you have a question about any topic at all this is a great place to ask. If the person with the answer is not following you there are people out there that will find you. Twitter does take some learning on how to make it work but once you “get it” it’s like riding a bycicle: It looked scary at first but once you learn you will never forget and you will wonder how you survived without it.
Yes there are a lot more nuts and bolts to networking, but there are also a lot more nuts and bolts to virtual networking as well. Just like in the real world there are tools, tricks, and tips to help with these 3 main aspects, there are tools, tips, and tricks to working with these 3 sites. This is just a very brief excerpt from my presentation “Presence 2.0″ and helps answer the question I hear most “What am I supposed to be doing?”
Bio: Scott Wendling is a Columbia native, a Hickman graduate and a Columbia College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance and management. He’s a Certified Commercial Investment Member candidate and a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers. He’s also active in the Realtors Commercial Alliance (RCA) as well as the Missouri Association of Realtors Young Professionals Network.