Friday, May 25, 2012

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In the advent of social media marketing "networking " has never been a more important concept. It is what the online user desires, whether they be the consumer of fellow solo/entrepreneurs. An open flow of communication is what is expected in order to gain loyalty and word of mouth. People want an exchange of communication now days and expect a forum available to them that their voices can be heard. With "like" buttons becoming common and prevalent it is essential that the businesses of the modern age learn how to "be liked" and bend to the new rules of modern marketing and networking. It seems as though the fine art of networking has however been lost in the high speed shuffle and that is a very dangerous and time consuming mistake to make. Especially if you were enticed into the numbers game and now have a large page of individuals you don't know and are still attempting to cold call. Networking is about give and take. The consumer, (and we are all one of those) have come to expect something valuable and viable as an offering in order to woo their attention and loyalty. Being pepper sprayed with non-solicited and UNTARGETED advertising is NOT a practice anyone is particularly fond of. Yet it seems to be very prevalent on the pages of every social network going.

I get a lot of what I call "spam" mail from such entrepreneurs in my own profile pages and to be honest, I don't read a single one. In fact I am rather annoyed by them. It seems to me that their only interest is to deliver their own self serving advertising. That not only offends me... as a consumer, I am really not interested in doing business with them. Let me tell you, this practice is so counter productive to the whole concept of why social network marketing has taken flight and become so popular in the first place. Think about it. The entrepreneur needs to slow down the pace and with a pre-determined set of objectives work a little smarter with their marketing efforts.

The buckshot approach:

In the zeal to satisfy the articles and webinares which tell us to get onboard with the lucrative marketing rewards that social networks offer; we as business people instinctively think to collect as many common and like minded people we can find and then inundate them with our own concept of "vital facts" hoping they have the time and fortitude to see what we see and will be excited to do business. Unfortunately these cold calls get lost within a ton of other spam like messages offering links as well. Be honest, do you even look at them in your own mailbox? How about the group pages? Do we think because the medium is free we can pepper spray our advertising messages in hopes of making a hit, without even offering anything valuable and viable other than how to make a fortune in a quick five minutes? What ever happened to "targeted" messages? Yes! I want to quit my business... the one I built by my own blood sweat and tears to take on a pyramid scheme and make a bundle in a flash! Is annoying our fellow friends and businessmen a cost effective way of getting the word out? Or is it a gross waste of time and effort, it also comes close to potentially earning a negative reputation? You be the judge.

There seems to be a lot of confusion gravitating around the numbers game and the concept of soliciting friends. The name of the game should not be an attempt to rack up the "people" points in numbers as much as it should be a focused effort to foster positive word of mouth prospects and networking partners for potential business alliances. We are talking about a quality issue as opposed to a quantity issue and that takes careful forethought, planning and time to pull together before you can reap rewards of a beneficial and mutual relationship. So let's take a closer look at the concept of networking and see if we can dissect some good and viable strategies from it with which to apply in our social networking practices.

A Definition to live by:

In old school terms, networking has always been synonymous with developing and maintaining contacts and personal connections who might be helpful to you, and your enterprise. These contacts can be very useful in keeping you abreast of:

- upcoming opportunities,
- insights and opinions that can be valuable to make cost effective business decisions from,
- alliances for the purposes of cross promotion,
- expertise you can tap into,
- as well as a support network, and Lord knows we could all use a bit of support sometimes!

The fine art of networking:

It is about building relationships of trust. That requires contact, communication that is multi directional, considerable etiquette and a sense of give and take from both parties in order to make it work. As in all relationships nothing comes quick and easy. It has to be worked at by keeping up regular contact, listening as well as speaking, remembering to be polite and thanking people for their insights and help; as well as freely helping others when asked without expecting a return. Rapport is best built when you don't need anything from whom you are interacting with. So stay in touch and foster conversations that are purely social. This not only helps you connect on a more human level, it will also builds a foundation of comradery where there is a willingness to put the heads together to advance both parties in their endeavors. Now you got each other's back and potentially with a bit of creativity, you can dream up some cross promotional ideas that can benefit both, all the while offering the cost effective benefits of a joint venture. This all hinges on the fostering of a relationship. You have to take the time to get to know who you are dealing with in order to build the good will necessary to promote one another's interests. Best of all it is TARGETED promotion. By networking, you are increasing the range of people who can hear about your business. By learning about other businesses, you are able to refer them to your clients who want something you can't offer, and vise versa. Your clients won't forget you for this, nor will your network partner, and we all know that word of mouth is the most powerful form advertising there is!

Fostering a strong and viable networking group may take a bit of time to build but it can be a major factor in business growth, it's survivability is for the long run and is much more effective than the buckshot approach of unsolicited and untargeted spam messaging any day. Fewer people are going to be upset with you. I guarantee it!

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