Three years ago, I had a pretty solid traditional network. I had about a thousand names in my personal database. These are people I’d met at some point along the line and collected a business card from. It would have been easy for me to say something like, “I’m close enough to the end of my career that I can skip all this Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter stuff.” And you know what? It’s quite possible I’d have been right; but at what price?
The cost of not doing social business
There are fundamental problems with a personal database, like the one I mentioned earlier. Keeping them up to date is darn near impossible without hiring someone at least on a part-time basis to do so. Remember, mine isn’t even that big at one thousand contacts. I’m still willing to venture a guess that 20 percent or more of the records are inaccurate or out-of-date.
With tools like Facebook and Linkedin, my connections keep their profiles updated for me and me for them. Plus, once we are connected in the social space, the richness of information available far exceeds that available in my personal database. For the most part, I have names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. On Facebook or Linkedin, I can find out which of my friends like hiking. Then, if I’m in a region with great hiking, I can reach out to someone and find out which trails to hike. After locating a trail, who knows where the conversation could go? Still, it’s quite possible it could turn towards business.
Then, let’s take a look at a tool like Twitter, which allows me to reach thousands of people almost instantly. Are all of them always listening? No, but hopefully enough will see the message to spread the word. I also have the option to direct message the almost 4,000 folks that have chosen to follow me. I exercise this privilege rarely and, by doing so, get almost 100 percent response to my questions within 24 hours. What communication medium are you using with that kind of success? Surely, it’s not email or the phone once you get stuck in voicemail hell.
Tools and the social skills to use them
Here’s the hard part: Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are just tools. Yes, the tools matter, but it’s still networking and you need solid social skills to use the tools effectively. Twitter will not turn you into an effective communicator if you aren’t one. Twitter will give you a bigger audience if you have something interesting to say and the social skills to get your message across. Linkedin won’t make you a great networker if your network currently consists of a stack of 50 business cards representing the people you’ve connected with over the last five or ten years. On the other hand, if you start with a database of one thousand names and connect strategically with those folks on Linkedin, you’ll have a social media network that rocks in no time.
If you feel you lack the social skills, however, that should not discourage you from jumping in. I would suggest that at the same time you do some reading on networking, making friends and influencing people. Perhaps even think about a Dale Carnigee class. An organization like that does not stay in business for more than 50 years because the principles don’t work.
This is what’s worked for me. What advice would you add to the doing social business equation?