It's amazing to me how many people "think" they are networking? It's even more amazing to me how many people are actually not engaging with their networks!
Some of you will think this blog is a little harsh. That's Ok! I don't mind. If it shakes some people up to get them engaging more with their networks, so they see growth in their business, then I am only too happy to take a little heat from those who may get their feelings wounded. And I'm Ok with it because I believe this message is THAT important. Important for you and for your business.
As a networking coach, it's my role to help the client shift their strategies and their perspectives. Simply put - sometimes it's my role to make the client feel a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it's my role to get the client stirred up. WHY? Because most times people need a shake-up to MOVE in a different direction.
I am speaking from experience. I am currently working with a business coach and am part of a mastermind with an extremely successful international business strategist and when she "shakes things up and makes me uncomfortable"... I TAKE ACTION!
So let's get serious. Why are you networking and more importantly how are you networking?
The bottom line for why you network is to gain business. You go to all kinds of networking events: free events, breakfast events, lunch events, dinner events, business after 5 events, exclusive industry events, open networking events, chamber events, and the list could go on and on. The reality is that just showing up at an event or meeting and doing the quick handshake and exchange of business cards will rarely gain your business.
The bigger and more important part of networking is, more often than not, neglected. The bigger and more important part of networking is THE HOW.
How you network is the action you take after you have made your introductions. Whether you meet people in person at an event or connect with someone on a Facebook group page is irrelevant. What's relevant is what you do after you establish the connection. It's what you do after that begins to create the relationship.
Ask yourself these two important questions. "How many networking events have I gone to and taken the next step to invite someone to coffee or lunch to continue building the relationship?" "Do I follow-up or do I simply wait until the next time I run into that person at another event only to say hello?" How you answer those two questions will have a direct correlation to how much business you are actually getting from your networking activities.
Let's take this same situation to your social media platforms.
How many Facebook groups, Google Hangouts, LinkedIn groups, etc. do you belong to? Are you engaging with your connections there or just hanging out in cyberspace stalking the occasional post? How many "friends" do you have and how many "members" do you have in your social media arena? Are they REAL connections or just numbers you can brag about when someone asks?
I understand that it's important to have high numbers on your social media platforms to drive up your SEO. Honestly, I get all that. What I want YOU to understand is that although it is impressive to have a lot of connections, it's more important to build relationships with those you are connected to, so that you can ultimately grow your business. It's important to engage in conversation with a private message and it's important to engage in the conversations in the groups you belong to.
Have you ever noticed that in the social media groups you belong to there is often only a handful of people that engage, comment and share regularly on the feed? It's those people that will be remembered because their names and pictures come up over and over again. Don't you want to be remembered?
How often do you respond to a post or are you a "like" button junkie? Are you contributing to the conversation? Do you take the time to privately message someone when you've read their posts to let them know your thoughts? Are you reaching out to others to encourage and support them?
I'm not suggesting you be in every single discussion of every thread on every post or that you need to respond to every post of every person you know on FaceBook or Twitter. What I am saying is that you do need to take a moment to get to know the people in the groups you belong to. Take a few minutes each day to schedule in your calendar some time to stay actively connected to the people you want to network and build relationships with. Responding to 2 or 3 different people's activities on social media each day will let others know that you value the time they are taking to share some information with you and that you appreciate their efforts. Responding each day will keep you actively engaged in building a stronger networking relationship.
How do you respond? With three simple steps that can take you from pretending to network to being the master networker you want to actually be. Step 1. Like the post. Step 2. Share the post. Step 3. (and the most important step) Pre-frame your share with a comment about WHY you are sharing it!
How do YOU feel when someone shares your post, your article, your picture? Feels pretty good, doesn't it? It makes you feel like your opinion and thoughts matter. It makes you feel like you have made a connection with the person who shared your post. And that's because you have. You made a connection with that person and when that happens, you want to thank that person for sharing. You want to keep the momentum going. You want to continue the conversation and you want to get to know that person to build on that connection. "BINGO"! THAT's Networking!
Take one step further and think about this. Isn't it the people, you already have a relationship with, that you would first refer someone to if you knew that someone was looking for a service or product? WHY? Because you like them and you trust them. Would you send someone you know to a perfect stranger you know nothing about? Not likely.
I don't mean to sound condescending. Those who know me know that's not my style. But I did want to shake up your thoughts a bit, get you a bit uncomfortable and stir things up. The reason I was willing to take a risk and do that is that I truly care about people, about relationships and about seeing people who put effort into growing their networks SUCCEED!
So, the next time you are at a networking event and you find yourself someone interesting to talk to, invite them for a coffee and get to know them better. Make a habit to comment 2-5 times a day on the posts in your social media feed. Even better, share the post and add a comment there so you can get the conversation going and help each other to get more exposure.
What I am really trying to get you to understand is this: Start Talking! Start Engaging! If you want to build relationships you need to have people to build that relationship with. Yes it's important to be at the networking event and it's important to be in the Facebook group, but that is not as important as having the people at the event or in the Facebook group KNOW WHO YOU ARE!
If you are going to play the networking game - Play to Win - Go For Broke - and WIN the Gold Medal!