When I was deciding which CMS (Content Management Platform) to adopt as my primary web building tool, I chose WordPress because of the size and enthusiasm of its community. Well, I just wrapped up WordCamp 2012 (read my take on WordCamp 2011) hosted, again, by Boston University and can tell you the community is growing in both size and enthusiasm. It’s also getting younger – or maybe it’s me just getting older. In any case, I’m encouraged by the collective intelligence, creativity and determination of our 20 and 30 somethings.
Who Are All These Smart People?
So as I did last year, I’d like to thank the following people for making me smarter:
*Jesse Friedman wrote a book. Here is how he told us about it: “Oh, by the way, I wrote a book. Buy it.” I’m certainly going to, even though, as Jesse said, “you’ll have to wait four months to get it.” Gotta love the off-handed manner in which such a bright young guy announced such an impressive achievement.
Buffalo Wild Wings in Saugus, Massachusetts hosting a networking event sponsored by the Saugus and Peabody Area Chambers of Commerce
Socializing is one of the most basic of human activities. This has been true since the dawn of man. Whether around a fire after a grueling hunt, or the television after an episode of American Idol, we love to gather and tell stories. We are social creatures. It’s what we do.
Socializing With an Agenda
I like to think of networking as socializing with an agenda. Madison Avenue got it right in the seventies with this classic commercial for Faberge shampoo. (I’m not hawking Faberge products. The video is for illustrative purposes only.) Remember the line “they’ll tell two friends and so on”? That’s networking.
Then there’s the young man who, in the early forties, developed a method for turning black polyethylene slag, a waste product produced in oil refinement, into a material that was flexible, tough, non-porous, non-greasy, odorless and translucent. He knew he had something but it wasn’t until he met Brownie Wise in 1948 that he and his product became household names. Brownie’s idea was to hold informal social gatherings in peoples’ homes to demonstrate the product. “If we build the people,” she was fond of saying, “they’ll build the business.” Apparently, Mary Kay and others were listening. The man was Earl Tupper and to this day, the Tupperware Home Party, remains the exclusive outlet for Tupperware. Earl Tupper sold his company to Rexall in 1958 for a staggering $16 million. That’s networking.
I said that networking is socializing with an agenda. There is nothing wrong with that. But you must play by the rules or you will lose the social capital you have earned and may never get it back. Here are some tips that work well for me:
don’t play at being interested in others. Be genuinely interested.
ask people what they do before you start talking about yourself. Listen to the answer. Really listen.
don’t lead a conversation by trying to sell your product or service. Instead, seek to establish your expertise or authority.
dress appropriately – this may seem obvious but I’m still amazed at how many people show up at networking events dressed for the beach, or the nightclub or …. well you get my point.
act appropriately – this too may seem obvious, but if you’re spending more time chatting up the bartender than the other professionals in the room ….. well you get my point.
business cards – yes, exchange business cards. That’s why you’re there – to expand your professional network. But don’t, I repeat, don’t add your new contacts to your mailing list without asking permission. This is a real pet peeve of mine.
don’t be shy – this is a tough one. If you’re shy by nature than the whole idea of networking is probably challenging for you. Remember that everyone is there for the same reason – to make new contacts and expand their sphere of influence. Once you introduce yourself to a few people you will get into the groove.
The thing about networking etiquette is that the rules aren’t codified or written down anywhere; they’re mostly a matter of common courtesy. But like all rules, violating them comes with a penalty. Many of the people you are likely to meet at networking events are seasoned business professionals. If you come to the party shamelessly selling your wares or talking about yourself non-stop or grabbing business cards and leaving, you will not be taken seriously. That’s the penalty.
And Now Back to You
Are you a networker? Do you belong to any Chambers of Commerce or other professional networking organizations? Has your participation helped you grow your business? What tips can you give others to get more out of networking? Talk to me.
My purpose was to “handle” each objection – which is really a salesy way of saying I wanted to counter each objection with logic, facts and common sense. I hope I succeeded. But in the past few days I’ve been asking myself (what is it about a new year that makes us talk to ourselves?) a more basic question about social media .
Why Do We Do It? Why Do We Really Do It?
There’s an urban legend that’s floated around Hollywood for years. (Note: I’ve never been to Hollywood.) The legend has it that a young Dustin Hoffman once asked his idol, the great Lawrence Olivier, “why do we act? I mean really, why do we do it?” Pausing for a moment, Olivier looked at Hoffman and said, “there are three reasons why we do this. Look at me, look at me and look at me.” Dustin, it seems was hoping for a deeply philosophical answer. What he got instead was a heavy dose of honesty. For businesses the objective of social media is simple – to connect with your customers in a way that increases your potential to sell whatever it is you sell. For the millions (or is it gazillions by now) who tweet and twitter for personal reasons, I suspect the motivation has more to do with Olivier’s response to Dustin Hoffman’s question. Make no mistake, there is ego involved here. We do it because in doing so we are exercising our very human need to be heard, to be validated. And in the world of social media there is no greater validation than to have people follow your tweets and comment on your blog posts.
How to Increase Your Following
Ah! The holy grail. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet here. There is no “one thing” that is guaranteed to build your following and have hordes of consumers clambering for more. But as Oprah would say, here is what I know for sure. You will NEVER get anyone to follow you if you’re not following anyone. You will NEVER get anyone to read your posts and comment on them if you don’t read and comment on theirs. Keep this word in the front of your brain: Community. To get people to participate in the conversation (and that’s how you should be thinking of your social media efforts) you must participate. Think two way street. Habit number 5 in Stephen Covey’s wildly popular and important book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states “seek first to understand, then be understood.” I’m sure Mr. Covey would not mind my slight adaptation: Seek first to follow then be followed.
And Now Back to You
Do you blog or tweet on a regular basis? Do you have followers? Do people comment on your posts? If so, how are you building your community? Who do you follow? Do you participate? Talk to me.
Want to really be social? Spend more time away from your computer.
This is not a picture of me. The point is, it could be. Ironic isn’t it? Here I am, a web designer/social media maven/blogger and I came to the sudden and startling realization that I’m spending too much time at my computer. Further introspection has revealed that I may also be suffering from NPWYP syndrome. (That’s Not Practicing What You Preach). And here is where my Baby Boomer perspective kicks in.
Being Social Is Still About In Person Connections
What I love about today’s internet is the ease with which people can connect. It’s been fun rekindling relationships on Facebook and finding old friends on LinkedIn. But we boomers have always been a bit cynical about online relationships. Back in the day there was no such thing. Personal relationships were forged by looking someone in the eye when you spoke to them, shaking hands when you met or said goodbye and …. well you know what I’m talking about. Don’t misunderstand. This is not a case of some old guy pining for the good old days. I’m simply saying that an active online social life should add richness to your offline (real) social life not be a substitute for it. Let me put it another way. If you spend hours each day at your computer tweeting, blogging, facebooking, google plussing, (yes, I’m making up words here), you are not being social. You are being anti-social.
You Really Need to Get Out More
Back to me. Why am I guilty of not practicing what I preach? Because I’m starting to feel like the guy in the picture. I’m working hard at building my online relationships but not hard enough on the real ones. I need to get out more. I need to join more groups, meet more people, attend more events, look into more eyes and shake more hands.
And Now Back to You
Do you think of yourself as a social person? How about this one – do you like people? Do you use social media tools to build online relationships? Do you look like the guy in the picture? Be honest.
Conversations with my clients have convinced me that people don’t understand the reach of LinkedIn. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn users tend to treat their profile as an online resume. They set it once then forget it. Big mistake! According to Social Brothers, a social media management and consulting firm, the average age of LinkedIn users is 43 versus 18-34 for both Facebook and Twitter. The average annual income of LinkedIn users is $109,000 versus $26,000-$50, 000 for both Facebook and Twitter. This is a strong and influential demographic and using all of LinkedIn’s capabilities to reach them is a smart business move. Most LinkedIn users are aware of its more obvious capabilities, but here are three less obvious ways to use LinkedIn to help you reach potential clients, solidify your online reputation and find people working inside of companies you are interested in speaking to.
1. Search Companies
Let’s say you want to speak to the Vice President of Marketing at Hubspot (one of my favorite companies). You can use the traditional method of emails, letters or phone calls. Good luck trying to get past the gate keepers who have been trained to keep you at a distance. Or you can search Companies on LinkedIn.
Simply type the name of the company you’re interested in into the search field. Your search results will be a list of people you are connected to who work inside the company. I tried this and was surprised to find that I knew two people working inside of Hubspot. Now I’m not looking to meet the Vice President of Marketing at Hubspot, but if I were what an advantage it would be to get a personal introduction from someone already working there. No more gatekeepers.
2. Join or Start a Group
Groups are online communities built around a particular topic or area of interest. Currently there are over 250,000 LinkedIn groups covering a wide variety of topics. Why join a group? When others view your Linkedin profile they will see the names and logos of all the groups you belong to. This involvement boosts your authority and lets people viewing your profile know that your interests are deep and diverse. In addition, being plugged into groups within your sphere of interest helps you learn from others.
LinkedIn's Search Groups feature
Finding groups to join is easy. Type a keyword phrase into the Groups search field. The screenshot below shows the results for a search on the phrase “paul reed smith” (Paul Reed Smith or PRS, is a handmade electric guitar. I own one). This is a highly specialized area of interest so the results show only 3 groups. You can see the Join Group button on the right. If you can’t find just the right group to match your interest or expertise, the yellow Create a Group button on the left allows you to start your own.
The LinkedIn Group search restults page
3. Ask or Answer a Question
LinkedIn’s Answers feature is a great example of the collaborative nature of today’s social web. By asking a question you are tapping into the knowledge, expertise and experience of hundreds of thousands of people who can see, and if they choose, answer your question.
LinkedIn's Answers feature
The screen capture below displays the screen you will see after selecting Answers from the drop down menu.
You can either ask or answer a question
When you ask a question, LinkedIn prompts you to categorize the question so that others with expertise in that category can answer it. When answering a question, it is in your best interest to choose a question about something you really know well. Bear in mind that many people will be responding and the person who asked the question gets to choose what he/she believes to be the best answer. If your answer is chosen as the best, this will be reflected in your profile. The more best answers you provide, the more credibility you build… and that, after all, is the point.
Three under used features of LinkedIn:
Groups – join or start your own
Questions – ask or answer
Now Back to You
What LinkedIn features have you found useful? Were you aware of the three I’ve covered here?
Back about a year and a half ago a colleague of mine asked me a simple question. “When are you going to get social”? It’s not that I was anti-social, it’s just that I wasn’t blogging, didn’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. The only online community I was participating in was LinkedIn. And I wasn’t really participating. I set up my profile and forgot about it. It gradually dawned on me that given what I do for a living I’d better get in the game. So like I did forty five years ago when I decided to play the guitar, I sought out the leaders in the field and started by emulating.
Identify the Best and the Brightest and (Try to) Do What They Do
The following is a list of ten people I’m following now. I have learned and continue to learn from all of them. I am certain that in six months this list will look different but for now I would like to share it and thank those who are on it. You have all taught me much. So in alphabetical order by last name, here it is:
Chris Brogan – Chris’ name was the first name I heard when I posed the question to others “who should I follow“? He’s been blogging longer than anyone and knows the terrain like no one else. He has co-authored, with Julien Smith (see number 9), Trust Agents, a primer on how to use the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust and Social Media 101, Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online. I’ve read both of these books. If you’re truly interested in understanding social media, I suggest you read them too and subscribe to Chris’ blog.
Seth Godin – There’s not much to say about Seth Godin other than he is one of the most influential minds on the planet. At last count (it changes daily) he has written 14 books. He is irreverent, funny and brilliant. Seth’s blog just reached its 4000th post. Back when the algorithm was interesting, the blog was ranked by Technorati as the #1 blog in the world written by a single individual. Do yourself a favor and become familiar with him if you aren’t already.
Ann Handley – In addition to co-authoring Content Rules with C.C. Chapman (mentioned above), Ann is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, an essential online resource for marketing professionals. She is the author of one of my all time favorite blog posts, 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be a Content Marketer. Give it a read and you’ll see why I subscribe to her blog.
Guy Kawasaki – Guy has been an influential voice in the tech world for a long time. His opinions are so valued that his blogs can be found on American Express’ Open Forum website. He has written ten critically acclaimed and immensely popular books including his most recent, Enchantment. He is the co-founder of Alltop.com, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. He was a long time Apple evangelist and worked closely with the late visionary, Steve Jobs. He writes about that experience here.
Bob Poole – I recently started following Bob Poole’s blog. Chris Brogan referenced Bob in one of his posts so I thought I’d have a look. I subscribed to Bob’s blog immediately and now look forward to checking back often. I like Bob for a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s my age. Let’s just say we both survived the sixties and lived to tell about it. He is a sales and marketing guy with a very fresh approach. In fact, he wrote a book about his approach called Listen First, Sell Later. I love that. He’s got a sense of humor. I love that too. Best of all, he’s got a link on his website called mojo. I really love that.
Amy Porterfield – Here’s the first sentence on Amy’s About page: Here’s How I Can Help You Grow Your Business With Social Media. I love her direct, no nonsense style. Almost every one of her blog posts begins with the words “How to … ” and she delivers. Her tips and suggestions all work. She knows Facebook better than Mark Zuckerberg (ok, you caught me exaggerating) and has great insight into how to use it as the powerful marketing tool it is. I just received her book (which she co-authored with Phyllis Khare and Andrea Vahl) Facebook Marketing All-In-One For Dummies. The cover says it’s 9 books in 1. At over 600 pages I’m sure it is. I can’t wait to dive in.
Julien Smith – Julien, along with Chris Brogan (see number 1) authored the best selling book Trust Agents. It was the first book I read about the real social implications and potential power of the web. I subscribe to Julien’s blog because he is different. He thinks outside the box, I mean way outside the box. Here is how C.C. Chapman puts it: “A creative individual who not only thinks outside the box, he puts his foot down and crushes it.” What more can I say.
Gary Vaynerchuk – If this list weren’t in alphabetical order by last name, Gary would probably have been first. He has become so ubiquitous on the web that it’s difficult to know where to point someone who isn’t already familiar with him. He is a human tornado. My thinking about social media marketing was completely changed after I read The Thank You Economy. He is a pioneer in the video blogging space and still maintains a video blog. By trade, he is a wine merchant but it’s almost ridiculous to categorize him that way. To say he is a passionate advocate for social media marketing is the understatement of the year. Subscribe to his video blog and you’ll see what I mean.
And Now, Back to You
So this is my Top Ten List. How does it stack up to your list? Who have I missed that I shouldn’t have? If it were a Top Twenty List, who do you think I should add? Talk to me.