There’s no question that effective social networking for business involves multiple touches, genuine relationship building, and both on and offline efforts. A big score may take a presentation, a LinkedIn connection, a podcast, a meeting, and then a one-on-one dinner! In other words, it may take hard work.
Hard work, however, is a competitive advantage. Many seem to follow the adage “Hard work never killed anyone, but why should I take the chance?” You have an opportunity to work harder than the next person, and that can make all the difference.
Visualize Your Networking Goals
The first step is to chart out your vision for 5, 7, 10 years down the line. What journey are you on, and where do you want to be? As the cliché goes, if your network is your net worth, then a clear vision of your future is critical to mapping out a social networking strategy. There are only so many hours in the day, so the more you can “be the ball,” the less likely you are to waste your time.
Seek Value, Not Quantity
There’s little utility in a great quantity of connections at the expense of quality. If you connect with someone online, you should know them. If you don’t, it’s a great opportunity to reach out and spark the beginnings a professional relationship. Look at what they do, listen to their story, and ask—genuinely—if there is some way you can help them.
Of course, as noted as a prominent theme in The Heart of Networking, expect nothing in return. Doing something nice for someone in anticipation of a quid pro quo is not a gift. It’s transactional, and anathema to long-term relationship building.
The Limits of Tech
Before the Internet, networking was even harder. It took phone calls and a lot of driving around. Offline networking is still alive and well, but the tools available now are powerful facilitators of this important work.
Keep that in mind: LinkedIn, Facebook, and whatever other social networking services you are using are just tools. There is no substitute for face time, and we don’t mean the capital-F Apple kind.
Worth the Effort
Is all this time-consuming social networking worth the effort? You may be fortunate enough to win the proverbial business lottery and have no need for all this relationship building, but likely that’s not the case.
Your investment in your network can also be a tremendous force for good. It can get millions of hungry people fed, win $60k for the Atlanta Food Bank, or help a music legend go out with the dignity he deserves.
It’s not one huge thing you do that changes your life or your career, it’s the million little things you peck at till you break down the wall. Whom you know—and their opinions of you—can be the difference between a company looking at 10 different options or just yours.
You Can Too
Ricky Steele has accomplished great things in his career, but he cites Atlanta’s Table as his greatest and proudest legacy, an innovative model he helped bring to 150 cities around the world.