Jackie has coached clients from all types of organisations – private, public, third sector and charities and including business owners, directors, educational leaders, new managers and recent graduates. Throughout her whole career Jackie has been a passionate networker. But she says “I didn’t call it networking. I was just interested in people – who they were, what they did, their dreams and ambitions – so I have always loved making new connections.”
The introduction of social networking sites has brought an interesting new strand to Jackie’s business. Using Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook – along with her blog which she established in 2006 – she has built a diverse and interesting network of contacts supporting her existing work.
In addition she has acquired a reputation as someone who knows how to use social networking for business and, as a response to the growing numbers of questions she was being asked on the topic she now also offers coaching in using social (as opposed to one way broadcast type) media
For those of you who have maybe just dipped your toe in the social networking waters or even those who have been using the tools for a while but are not quite sure if you are maximising the potential benefit here are some valuable hints and tips.
It is important to know why you are networking generally before you try social networking. For many people it may be to build a client base to support marketing of your product or services. But you might also want to consider using networks to find out more about your sector (and the competition of course!), for professional development by learning from others or for sharing and promoting ideas to attract others with whom you could collaborate.
How much time will it take?
How much time do you have? There is no question that if you are the kind of person who cannot hear a email ping into your inbox without looking at it immediately you should think carefully about adding social networking for your business to the mix. It is possible to spend 15 minutes a day on meaningful social networking. With that in mind – like for most things – it will probably take a wee bit longer in the early days until you get the hang of it. The question really should be “how much time do I want to spend ..”?
Decide on the best site(s) for you and your business
New sites appear every day. Even the long established sites change regularly. The most used social networking site is of course Facebook and although it has been generally seen as a personal not business networking site it has some interesting opportunities for business. Probably the best known “business focused” site is Linkedin. Then there is Twitter which is attracting more and more business conversation . There are many more sites out there and you may be invited by friends and contacts to join them. When you decide which ones to use to start your answer to the “time” question might help you decide what else you do.
Start a conversation
Social media generally – including social networking, blogs, forums, wikis etc anything where people can contribute and respond – depends on conversations. If you have only ever read posts online but decided not to comment ( known as “lurking” in the online world) – even though what you had to say could have been valuable – give it a go and see what happens. When you feel confident enough start your own conversation. On Facebook ask a question in the “What’s on your mind” box. Similarly you can use the Update box on Linkedin – or even better answer one of the questions other Linkedin members asked. Twitter is all about conversation and a simple comment or question can start interesting threads.
Build a community
In the excellent ( and very readable) book Trust Agents – full title “using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust” – authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith – with a twist on the old saying – stress that “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. Building a community whose members know and trust you can hugely boost your own and your business reputation. One very important thing to remember is that we all like when someone gives us something for free – with no strings – whether that is introducing people to each other that you think would be able to work together, or a link to a news article that you know a contact would find useful, or a heads up on an important conference, or sharing some research findings.
Take the conversation offline when you can
Social networking online is a great way to meet people but as soon as you make a connection that you feel is worth nurturing try to get to know them better using the old style media! If coffee or lunch is not possible because of location challenges Skype is a very good cross between the phone and social media – so you can see who you are speaking to while you chat at a distance. We get far more sense of how we can get on with people when we can see and hear them. Social networking should be used in addition to – not instead of – your other networking activities!
Be in it for the long run
No matter how much – or how little – you decide to do you need to decide to stick with it. Just as you will not have built your current network overnight neither will using social networking move it to a new level quickly. At the very least give it six months and reflect on what has happened since you started. There is a lot of discussion about how to measure return on investment of both money and time on social media with no one answer yet. You might find that a contact you make early on becomes a client – or a route to a new client – quickly or at some point in the future you realise that the introduction to your new customer grew from someone you met a while back.
A couple of encouraging stories to finish with:
In my portfolio of services I am an associate of Speakersbank, a charity that teaches public speaking skills. Early in 2009 – a few months after I started using Twitter I “tweeted” that I was running and Open workshop in Edinburgh. Alex, who was following me on Twitter based down south said that the thought that this would be interesting to some of his Scottish team and indeed one of our participants that day was from his organisation. That was a quick win.
The reason I am now offering coaching in using social media comes directly from – well – using social media! I had the privilege of speaking to the ladies from the Athena network in Edinburgh in January and flowing from what they wanted the idea of the one to one coaching sessions developed. Over the past few months I have coached many individuals and a few teams in using Linkedin specifically but in context of wider social media. Take a look at the my Linkedin page to see what they say about it!
My blog www.consultcameron.com