It can take time to learn the subtle nuances of networking online, but it’s well worth the effort.
Networking online is not so different than networking offline. Using the good old social skills you learned as a child is the best way to connect with others. Offline, or face-to-face networking skills are extremely important before you try to network online. Here is an article I wrote about how to Network Like a Pro at networking events.
Personal skills are more important than ever online. It’s easy to feel anonymous online, and it’s too easy to blast people with your opportunity or products. Everything you say and do online builds pieces of a puzzle that people use to formulate their opinion of you and decide if they want to talk with you, follow you or maybe even block you if you seem like a jerk.
Here are some tips to help strengthen your social media networking skills so you can be connecting with others in no time:
Be ready with your elevator pitch –
You have a very brief time frame to make that great first impression. Have a short but interesting elevator pitch prepared so that when someone asks what you do, you can quickly respond with a very short 20-30 word answer that will draw that person in and pique their interest. This is about what you do, not a sales pitch. For instance, you could say, “I am a distributor for a weight loss product, and I help people lose an average of 30 pounds within six weeks” or whatever it is for you. And then turn the conversation back to them.
This is especially important in Google Hangouts so that when someone asks what you do, you can respond quickly and confidently.
Complete your profiles on every platform you have an account –
When people meet you, many times they will check your social media profiles for more information. Use descriptive, clever language that explains who you are and what you do. Being vague or leaving it blank gives the message that you are not interested in being open or maybe not interesting. Ouch! Use your space wisely and be as consistent across your bios as possible. Use the same picture on every social media site. Pick a few keywords for your bios that describe you.
Keep in mind that some people meet you first through your social media profile so you’ll want to make a good impression.
If you don’t have a website you can create an About.me page for free which is a nice visual representation of who you are with links to your social media. Vizify is another fun way to create visual bio. I tweak mine every now and then to keep it up to date.
Introduce yourself to people who you’d like to connect with –
Find people you’d like to connect with and tweet them or comment on their posts. The same is true for their blog posts. Some people have made an art form of commenting on other people’s blog posts and have created strong networks with other bloggers this way.
While networking online, there is no guarantee that this will build a relationship. You are saying, “Hi, this is me” but do so with an open heart and let go of the outcome. Over time, if you comment on their posts every now and then, or try to get a conversation going, they may respond. If they don’t respond, don’t take it personally. After all, they don’t know you yet.
Be very careful with Facebook. Strive to build some sort of relationship before Friending them. Facebook doesn’t like you to friend people you don’t know and they will penalize you for it if you do it too often. Many times Facebook will ask the person if they know you offline, and if they say no, your friend requests could be suspended.
Follow up with people who you meet offline –
If you meet someone at a networking event or conference, connect with them on social media as soon as you can while you are still fresh in their mind. Go beyond collecting business cards and connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook so that you can start to work on the relationship.
Connect through social media channels –
When I meet someone I really like, I make sure to follow them right away on the social media platform I met them on. As you meet more and more people, it’s easy to forget someone’s name. But if you follow people immediately, you can check the people you are following or who are in your circles. One very nice thing about social media connections is that usually you have a history of your chats and communications to go back to later.
Spread your networking across platforms. For example, I share my Pinterest and Instagram bios on Twitter every now and then. This way, people who are following me on Twitter can now follow me on Pinterest or Instagram if they choose. This will help you build all your social media platforms and create a solid brand for yourself.
Continue to build the relationship –
The grass is greener where you water it. You’ll want to continue to build and strengthen your relationships. Work to provide value for your followers. Be a resource and a connector.
Don’t forget to acknowledge special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Congratulate people on their timeline when they’ve done something notable.
Join and get involved in groups where the people you want to connect with hang out. Seek to provide value there as well.
Stories are a great way to capture someone’s attention. A great story will engage people emotionally and they’ll be more inspired to share and engage with you. Tapping into emotions and giving people a reason to share your story is one of the most effective ways to build word of mouth and deepen your relationships.
Add goals to your social media strategy for connecting and initiating conversations. Start with something manageable such as initiating X number of conversations with people daily. Keep it small, get a feel for the time it takes, and build on that.
These are just a few of the ideas that I have to share with you. I bet you are using other ideas as well. Please share with us what works for you. We’d love to hear it.
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By Lynn Huber
p.s. When it comes down to it, building relationships on social media is about truly listening. It's about taking part in the conversation, not trying to control it. It's about dialogue, not pushing a message.
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