FeedBurner makes it easy to receive content updates in My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Bloglines, and other news readers.
If you went to a networking event, grabbed a chair and sat along the wall, what would you expect to gain from the experience? A: NOTHING!!! To make the event work for you, you need to get out and interact with people. LinkedIn is much the same. You can expect nothing from it, unless you put something into it. You need to make active use of it. There are five basic active uses of LinkedIn. The first is the professional profile.
Just like when you head to the networking event, you need to not only be visible, but you need to put your best foot forward. On LinkedIn, you have the ability to create a profile for yourself. This is your face in the crowd at this online networking event. Be sure to take the time to present yourself well.
Note that this essentially is an electronic resume or brochure for you.
• Don’t be shy; add a picture
• Provide a short statement of not just your title, but the value you offer
• Give a 30-Second Commercial-like overview of what you are about
• List your work experience (listing anything that is reasonably relevant)
• Provide an overview of your education (as this will lend credibility to you as well as being a point of common experience or affiliation with others)
• Seek some recommendations on the work you have done for and with others
• List impressive achievements and other experiences that might not come through in your work history (such as professional designations, awards and recognition).
The great thing about this profile is that there is no limit to how often you can revise it. So feel free to keep it up to date with whatever you are doing, producing or reading. Allow people to know as much as reasonably possible about you.
Social media is a tool to help you network but it is not a replacement for networking. It is best analogized as a giant, ongoing, searchable networking event. Great! But the $64,000 question is “What Can It Do For Me?”
First, social media is an effective means of networking THROUGH to people. You can meet attorneys, bankers and those associated with employment transition. In short, social media is a great way to find and work through strategic partners who can lead you to clients. It is not geared for selling. Again, remember, it is just like a networking event and you would not dream of overtly hawking goods or services there, so do not do it here.
Second, social media is a wonderful way to position yourself in the hearts and minds of others, especially if you are new to a profession. Many of the people who know you, know you as someone else. Even if you have been in a particular profession for a long time, your online network might not fully appreciate what it means. LinkedIn provides you a platform to brand yourself as a knowledgeable and committed person in your profession (someone to know, like and trust). It will not do this over night, but in time you can create an expert of yourself on LinkedIn.
Finally, and likely of most interest, social media is a great means of creating opportunity. Through it, you can connect with people that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can find events that can lead you to clients. Through it, you can get information that can connect you to clients. Through it, clients can become aware of you and connect with you directly. It will not provide a windfall immediately; some days will be better than others. But over time the opportunities will be there.
Everyone has been to a networking event … Business After-Hours, Open House or Tradeshow … A gathering of people with the ability to interact with each other. Do you know what? That is what social media is, nothing more than a networking event. It is just another networking event, EXCEPT for some important differences.
First, your average networking event might have a few hundred people all from a local area. Social media, however, boast having millions of people participating (and likely 100’s of thousands in your region) and they are scattered all over the world.
Second, most networking events operate on a particular day and time. If you happen to be busy during that day and time (say, Friday at 7:30 am), you are out of luck until the next event. With LinkedIn, however, this networking event is going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. During the big game you can participate in the event while you watch TV. If you can’t sleep, you can come online to the event. Even on Thanksgiving Day (or any other major holiday) you can be part of this continuously operating networking event.
Finally, when you walk into a networking event and see new faces, you cannot tell who is who. The guy in the suit could be a corporate executive or someone in transition. You just don’t know. If you are looking to network with attorneys, you generally find them via introduction or by trial and error. With social media (especially LinkedIn, in this instance), you can find the people you are looking for quickly and you can know a ton about them before you start to converse.
So approach social media as if it were just another networking event, but know that it also has the wonderful advantages of being worldwide and immense, continuously operating and rich with searchable information.
Far too often, people figuratively chain themselves to their computer and clank away in LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter hoping to create business for themselves. While they may stumble onto some, it seldom reaches the level they hope for.
Know this… Social media (and especially LinkedIn) is not a sales machine… it is not an order-taking system…it is not an ATM. It is merely a tool that you can use to better network yourself … It is not a replacement for networking.
Think of it in terms of this analogy … We networked before we had phones. People worldwide and people in this country built vast and complex civilizations long before they had any sort of electronic telecommunications. They were able to network themselves … Word-of-mouth, couriers and carrier pigeons did the trick. Back in the day, people did business and associated with those they knew, they liked and they trusted.
When the telephone came along, it did not change the underlying aspects of networking. It just made it easier. But they still did business with those they knew, they liked and they trusted. The telephone was just a tool.
The same is true of social media (such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter). It is just a tool. It is not networking. It is just a tool to make it easier to get to know people, determine if we like them, and then ultimately trust them.
In the early days of the Internet, companies built websites and supplied all the content. They knew that it was critical to have fresh content as often as possible so people would come back to their site. And if people didn’t come back, then they knew they would be far less attractive to potential advertisers.
We all know how this story ended. People invested millions in these websites, stock was sold on Wall Street and in the end, people lost billions and the economy was thrust into a recession of sorts.
While some proclaimed the World Wide Web as just a fad, others re-tooled and took a new approach to the Internet. Many sites, such as Amazon and WebMD, still depend on having fresh content to keep people coming back. Many developers, however, took a new approach, creating websites where the online content is created everyday by millions of average people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. These developers look to people like you and me to write about what is interesting to us and share things we deem important or entertaining. This development, known as Social Media, completely shifted how people discover, read, and share news, information and other content.
Certainly, social media gets a bad rap. It can be viewed as an expansive online rumor mill or coffee club. If you approach it correctly, however, it can be a valuable networking tool.
There are many different types of social media, including the big three – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Beyond those are dozens of others. YouTube is a form of social media just for sharing video. Instagram and Pinterest are for sharing images.
There are sites geared entirely for small business and some just for attorneys … Or writers. The point is that there are tons of different types of social media. Some have better business applications than others, but there are lots of ways to connect with people on the Internet now.
Congratulations! You’ve established relationships and empowered that network. Great! But remember there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it break down because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.
Think of it like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you only have to exert mild force to keep it moving. But don’t let it stop because then it is like starting all over.
Establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving. The mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.
Ask: Continue to ask for referrals, including things your network might not see. Don’t get frustrated if they are not referring things that seem obvious to you. Remember, they don’t live in your world and don’t see it as you do. So ask!
Appreciate: No matter what your network does for you, thank them. If a referral goes nowhere, thank them anyway. Why? The fact they are thinking of you is excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!
Also, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. Dole it out and people will do whatever it takes to get more. Few people thank others. You will set yourself apart when you show your appreciation.
Clarify: No matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.
Don’t get frustrated. They want to help and they are trying. Reconnect with them and clarify your request. One small correction in how they perceive what a good referral for you is could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.
If you do a spectacular job educating your network on recognizing referrals, great. That, however, is not enough. You need to empower them with the ability to talk to prospective clients about what it is you do.
For example, if they recognize that the displaced executive is a potential client to refer to you, great. Encourage them to strike up a conversation with the person (and they will if they know, like and trust you). And transition into a discussion about franchising. Here is an example:
“I am sorry you are in transition. What is your next move? Have you considered becoming your own boss? I understand that franchising is almost a fool-proof means of successfully being in business. I know a great franchise broker … there is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisors pay his fees.”
In addition to general conversation, empower your referral machine with non-technical buzz words and catch phrases about your industry (as well as what they mean) … Franchise Fee … Ongoing Royalties … FDD … Earnings Claim … Discovery Day. Your network should know enough to talk about what you do but not enough to do it.
Finally, encourage your network to hook you into the situation. In short, encourage the person to talk about you in a connecting sense. Returning to the example from before “I know a great franchise broker. There is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisors pay his fees.”
Establishing relationships is an important first step. In so doing, you have built a network of people who are really behind you. Again, they know, like and trust you. This alone does not create a referral machine, however. Before your network can refer you, they need to be empowered. Empowered to recognize opportunities for you as well as empowered to talk or communicate about you.
People within your network do not magically know how to refer you. First, they need to know who to refer you to and they need to know when to refer you. To make this happen, it is entirely up to you to empower them to recognize these opportunities.
Consider franchise brokerage (though this applies to any business or profession). Certainly if someone comes out and says, “I am looking to buy a franchise”, your network should know to think of and refer you. But what about all the times that someone could be a great client but does not say they are looking to buy a franchise (or they do not even know that franchise ownership is an option)?
If you want to create a referral machine, it is your job to paint a picture in the minds of your network as to who is a good referral candidate and what is a good situation. Here are three great ways to do this.
(1) Develop a series of short 30-second commercials that concisely convey what you are looking for and what you do. Again, develop a series, so that you have a varied message. Write these out and practice them, then use them as often as possible. For help on this find the short series on 30-second commercials.
(2) Even if you have a great 30-second commercial, people are not going to fully remember what you have to say. To overcome this, develop (again) a series of short summaries outlining what you are looking for. Make these short and simple (so simple that a 5th grader could understand them). Then neatly type and print them out (or even have them professionally printed) so you can quickly and easily hand them out, mail, or e-mail them to your network.
(3) If you give people the basic facts, they might politely listen. But if you weave these facts within a compelling story, example or analogy, they will be enthralled by what you have to say. If you have experiences, share them. If you do not have experiences, then talk to someone who does and borrow theirs. If you have neither experience nor access to someone who does, make it up. In this situation, it is not stealing to make someone else’s experiences your own. It is not lying to craft a story that has not occurred. You are doing this to paint a picture of what a good referral looks like.
In Part 6, we will address empowering your referral machine.
Okay, there are lots of potential people with whom to establish a relationship. What about the “HOW”? How can you make this happen?
In establishing relationships, there are three main categories of activities you need to consider making part of your personal regimen. (1) Giving or adding value to others; (2) Ensuring that you become involved; and (3) Making sure that you are dependable or reliable in what you say and do.
First, when people hear the term “GIVING TO OTHERS”, they tend to conjure up images of dragging out their wallets. That is not the case at all. There are lots of things you can do in giving or adding value to others.
Each of these things adds value to others. The key part of all of this, however, is that when you add value to others, they cannot help but feel they know you, like you, and trust you. And somehow, they are quietly compelled to return the deed at some point in time.
Second, another means of establishing relationships is getting involved with your community.
Trust this, no matter where you live there are business groups, charities and civic initiatives that could use your time, talent and energy. When you get involved in your community, it raises your level of exposure and it demonstrates your commitment. With these things, people cannot help but feel they know you, like you and trust you, which is exactly what you need to start establishing relationships and to create a referral machine.
Finally, adding value and getting involved are great for establishing relationships. You, however, will undermine the entire process if you are not reliable. With even an innocent infraction of unreliability, you can kill your chances of getting referrals. Be reliable … be on time … do what you say… follow-up, as you promise. And if for some reason you are unable to do these things, alert the person who might be relying on you as soon as possible.
This may all seem like common sense. It is. However, it is not common practice. It has tripped up even those with the best of intentions. Guard against this.
Nevertheless, once you have these relationships established, you can start to put your referral machine to work. That is the subject of Part 5.
The important first step to creating a referral machine is establishing relationships. This all begs two important questions: (1) WITH WHOM should I establish these relationships? And then even more importantly, (2) HOW do I go about establishing these relationships?
As to WITH WHOM you should establish relationships, there is no magic or secrets. They are all around you. First, start with the people you already know. Why? The people you already know, presumably already know, like and trust you. Far too often, when people embark on creating a referral machine, they become fixated on people they have never met before.
Think about it. You know tons of people right now – friends from the community or school, former colleagues, existing or past clients. This represents a treasure trove of raw materials with which to work.
Second, develop a list of strategic partners. Ask yourself this – who are the people that do not compete with you, but who run in the circles where you would like to be running? What is the profile of a good potential client for you and who might be servicing them?
Third, everyone is connected. Everyone knows someone who might be a good potential referral for you (although they may not realize it). This is not to say that you need to establish a relationship with everyone. What it does say, though, is do not dismiss anyone. Give everyone attention and respect.
As to HOW, we cover that in Part 4.