Social Media is often treated as a panacea… the new frontier… the 2nd coming of advertising, but that CANNOT be further from the truth. please allow me to explain a different take on it!
How many of you remember “Up With People“? Their website describes them as “Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music.” In high school, I was an enigma… I was a ‘Geek' (as geeky as the late 70's could get), a ‘Jock' (wrestled and other sports… but never a star), a ‘Burnout' (yeah I hung out across the street from the school), and a dweeb (I was in music/theater… and was paraded around the school in tights and jumpsuits more often that I care to mention) :). But through all those activities, I learned to fit in with a variety of crowds and was embraced by most of them!
If you know or remember “Up With People”… you have to admit that it can be either enjoyable or annoying , but It's still enduring today (one word ‘Glee')! It's allure is the music and the characters (not to far removed from what I experienced back in high school – just a little cooler in my re-written history of it all!).
I am blessed to have the chance to reconnect or stay connected with many of those people through music or business, and life in general through Social Media. Looking back at these experiences, ultimately, I learned how to fit in, be me, and connect with a wide array of people! Those lessons have helped me to better understand how and why networking is key to growing my (and your) business!
Networking Beats Not Working
I currently belong to two leads groups, two networking groups, and three think tanks. Add into that volunteering for boards and committees. Then tack on two to five opportunities to do presentations or teach a class per month. All that adds up to well over 40 hours of networking (almost a full work week a month). I know it sounds insane for a solopreneur, but it's well worth it and let me tell you why? Revenue is up over 10% (in a very down economy) while advertising and marketing costs are down over 30%. Why? People who I “Know, Like & Trust”, and people who “Know, Like & Trust” my business!
I often hear “You are everywhere?”, “When do you find time to work?” Trust me… I pick and choose them wisely and with purpose. I want to connect with people who I feel I can help first, and then who can help me! I go into networking expecting to help connect others first, and not how can I create more sales.
I learned long ago (and more recently better understood) that relationships take time to nurture. Too often, people treat networking as floating sales meetings. I have seen people move from group to group and commit for 1-2 meetings or 1-2 months just to get their names and businesses out there. What they miss is it takes more than showing up and selling your business to get people to “Know, Like and TRUST” you! Those people treat others as transactional… a sale.
If you are a fan of “How I Met Your Mother“, you know Barney Stinson. His goal in life is to score as may one-night-stands as humanly possible. He is transactional, the deal of the day, and has no expectation, nor desires commitment. He just wants to make the “Sale”. This is the way a bunch of people I network with treat networking. They are more concerned about making a transaction (especially those that are commission based or in multilevel marketing).Carl & Ellie form “Up”
Then there are the Carls' and Ellies' (from the movie “Up“). It's a Pixar Movie that extols commitment, dedication, selflessness and a love story! That's how others (and more successful) people treat networking. It takes commitment and realizing that caring for others can lead to good things.
The Carls' and Ellies', try to find opportunities to make others successful. They recommend others when people are looking for products and services. They support others, lend an ear or a hand, and do their best to make themselves valuable and selfless. I know… that's hard and unconventional, but it works in their favor. By giving of yourself, you become a friend and trusted advisor, and more often than not, those you help will return the favor. Trust me, people can smell the difference between sincerity and schemers!
Secret Weapon – Social Media
Now admit it? You can tell the difference between the Barney Stinsons' and the Carl & Ellies' on your social media. The Barney Stinsons' are those who do nothing to connect with you on a personal level. They disguise ads as caring posts. They never comment on your heartfelt thoughts or issues or offer support and advice, they just post about what they have to sell. The Carl & Ellies' are the ones who offer comfort, advice, connections and interact with you on a more personal and emotional level.
There are Barney Stinsons' and Carl & Ellies' in your everyday life. Think about the person who pours you coffee? Do they take time to get to know you and your likes (Starbucks vs the others), or the grocery counter (WalMart checkout person vs the Corner Store owner)? Who pays more attention to you and are you willing to pay more for that level of service?
Granted, I am a mid-level player with over 5000 connections, and I realize I cannot be there for everyone… but I do my best to be engaged with as many people as I can, while still getting as much work done for clients who need services!
Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked in give you the opportunity to nurture face-to-face networking with people. Are you treating them more like a Carl & Ellie or a Barney Stinson? It can either be a source that builds your relationships, or a tool where you can be a transactional, one-night-stand… How are you using it?
I have learned through all my networking (and being a part of so many social circles in high school), that you never know when an acquaintance can be the most important connection tin your success that you have ever met! You have to be willing to connect with a wide variety of people in various businesses, who you may never make a sale to, but you may find a way to connect to in ways that don't necessarily mean direct business. Sometimes… that can lead to connections that ultimately grow a successful business! Does that make sense? “UP WITH PEOPLE!”
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!