In a past post on LinkedIn, I mentioned that a future post would be about the very important connection between networking and your personal brand. And then LinkedIn announced a major change to their Company Page feature and I wrote a post about that where I shared some advice about dealing with their often-unexpected changes. Now, here we are, quite a while later, and I’m finally getting to it. Hope this sheds some light and helps you reframe networking as it relates to you and your business.
Networking is an opportunity to market and demonstrate your personal brand
As the Chief Connecting Officer of Bella Domain Media, one of my goals is to teach entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, small business owners and other professionals how to effectively and genuinely connect online and offline. As a self-described networking enthusiast (and some in the media even call me a “networking expert”), I wrote a book titled, I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Making The Most Out Of Any Networking Event” (Happy About Press), mainly because I know all too well that many entrepreneurs and most business owners dread this vital “marketing” activity.
Truth is, I’m fairly certain I was a somewhat “reluctant networker” at the beginning of my career. But today I believe that beyond self-promotion, networking builds community and creates healthier and stronger business environments. I also believe that networking online and offline is a necessary marketing investment in your own personal brand as well as your business and it never has to be a waste of time. Today, perhaps more than ever, your network has everything to do with your professional net worth and having effective and polished offline and online marketing (aka, networking) skills can play a key role in your success and professional/business development.
Networking as a marketing channel
In her book, Rules For Renegades (McGraw Hill), Christine Comaford said, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for,” and I, most definitely, agree. Years ago, when I first met Christine, and read this quote from her, I knew I had to include it in my book on networking and I did (chapter 7’s title page).
The truth is
It doesn’t matter if you’re focused locally or are looking for opportunities internationally, the most important source of referrals for new business or jobs can usually be found in meeting people face-to-face. Whether you do this by attending local or regional events in your city or flying to industry conferences a few times a year, those in-person connections can help you build your brand very effectively.
In today’s world, we’re lucky that we have both offline and online options for networking. But it’s important to use both if you want to build your brand and maximize your reach.
Social media marketing and social networking
Online, it’s important not to confuse social media marketing with social networking. Social media marketing is much more akin to traditional marketing in that it’s trying to achieve the same thing: sales, leads, interest and buzz.
Social networking, however, is a different animal with different rules and outcomes. While it can be done on many of the same platforms as social media marketing (e.g, LinkedIn, Twitter), for me, social networking is mostly about staying in touch and making connections and also the way I develop and cultivate those connections.
In the distant past, people used a Rolodex and a phone. Then, we gravitated to email as a way to stay in touch. Today, with online social networking tools and activities, you can not only stay in touch with people you meet in person, but you have the ability to create new connections with people you’ll probably never meet face-to-face. And since there is so much more online information available, you can easily research commons interests before meeting with a customer, collaborator, or vendor before you’ve ever met and then have a few conversation starters available at your fingertips.
You can also connect with potential partners and customers from all over the world.
It is important to note the distinction between social media marketing and social networking because both serve a purpose in your brand-building efforts. You just need to be clear about what you get from each tactic.
When engaging in social networking, you need to come at it from a place of generosity and mutual benefit, not a sales angle. Try to present yourself online as you would at an in-person event. You’d never just meet someone for the first time, shove your business card in their face and ask them to buy what you’re selling, would you? While there are some people who do this, it’s not the best way to boost your brand perception. Be human and be consistent online with your brand, just as you would offline.
I also often see people present themselves one way in their website or profile, but they would never be that way in person. Such inconsistency can hurt your brand. You want to authentically present you and your brand online the same way you would if they walked into your store or met you at a meeting or interview.
While it’s true that some industries, such as finance or academia, may require a certain formality due to legal issues or government regulations, for the most part social networking is about presenting yourself as human. After all, YOU are your brand, especially if you’re a solopreneur, consultant or small businesses owner. The idea is to be consistent with the same voice, same values, same style online as well as offline. Of course, use caution: you can’t be overly familiar with someone online whom you don’t know very well. That road typically leads to disaster.
You can use social networking platforms to follow-up on connections you make in-person to help reinforce your brand and demonstrate your commitment to cultivating a relationship. When you meet someone at an event, exchange cards and invite them to connect with you through your social media channel of choice. If you do this, they are more inclined to click-through to your profile and learn more about your business and brand than if you’d sent an email with a website link in it. Make sure you take the time to create a polished profile that reflects your current and future brand. I often tell my clients that resumes are about the past, and they need to cover yours, but I believe it is your profile on LinkedIn (or bio on Twitter), that is about today and the future. It should include information that indicates how you are positioning yourself for the work or opportunities you want to attract or be found for today and in the near future.
Why networking matters
In many circles, there exists a belief that the bigger your network, the more successful you and your brand may be perceived. There is a certain cache to how far-reaching your connections are as well as a perception that a large and high-quality network connotes a certain level of success, and that you have valuable resources available to you to get things done. In recent years, I’ve even seen job postings and contractor opportunities posted where they state that if you don’t have at least 250 connections on LinkedIn you shouldn’t even bother to apply.
Be nice or leave and don’t be shady
Both online as well as offline networking simply reinforces who you are in the world and the way you are in the world as a professional either supports or hurts your brand, whether we’re talking about a personal or business brand. Your social interactions with people via social media or at events need to be polite, kind, thoughtful, and worded with care. Without being intentional and making the time to consistently do this as part of your marketing, you will fall short of your professional goals.
I’m running out of the recommended amount of words for a professional blog post, so if you’d like to read eight tips for achieving offline and online networking bliss, check out my interview in a chapter of the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business by my good friend (and frequent collaborator) Maria Ross of Red Slice.
Here’s a teaser of the first two tips:
1) Follow up online with offline contacts: When you meet offline, instead of just sending an email, immediately connect with new contacts through online social channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, etc. And to keep that connection fresh, don’t wait too long to do this; I suggest within 48 hours. If you’re at a conference, as tired as you might be at end of day, it’s smart to send a follow-up as soon as you can so the connection is fresh in both of your minds.
2) Personalize the note: Do NOT send invitations to connect on a social channel without personalizing the message. I cannot emphasize this enough! Say something meaningful or relevant to your conversation or social interaction. Remind them how you met or compliment them on their website or blog. How great is it that we live in an age when it’s so easy to take this opportunity to make that connection deeper? Some social networks, like LinkedIn, require you to have an email to connect. If you don’t have their email, in some cases, you can mark them as a “Friend” but again, make sure you personalize the message and add a P.S. apologizing for using the friend card.
Does your marketing budget include a line for networking expenses/activities? What’s your best success story about a new connection you made via social networking?
I’m the author of I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???, the #1 pick on the Inc.com 2010 Business Book Wish List. As CCO for Bella Domain Media, I share my insights and practical advice as a professional development speaker and trainer, and consultant/coach. This post was inspired by my contribution to a chapter about social networking in the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business by Maria Ross, which was released April 1, 2014. You can check it out here.Read More
Introducing a new (and zero-cost) business-boosting elearning series aimed at setting you up for a stellar 2015!
Join me for this interactive web series that will help strengthen and build your network as well as grow your biz!
It’s officially fall and I don’t know anyone who isn’t interested in learning a few new tips or tricks for boosting their brand and growing their business between now and the end of the year. So, I invite you to invest in yourself and your business by getting ready for a fantastic 2015!
Last month, I kicked off a new series of free 45 min webcasts titled, Making Connections Matter. The schedule for these business-boosting learning sessions is below, so be sure to register early because there are only 25 spots available for each of these interactive web-based sessions which will include time for a Q&A portion at the end.
10 Things You Can and Should Do on LinkedIn Each Week Wed, Sept 24th noon (PDT) The Bare Minimum: 7 Social Media Basics for Small Business Thu, Oct 23rd noon (PDT) Surviving the Holiday Mixer: Practical Networking Tips for Enjoying the Social Season, with Special Guest, Branding Guru Maria Ross of Red Slice Wed, Nov 12 noon (PST)
- 7 Tips for Deepening Your Connections to Your Network for a Prosperous 2015 Wed, Dec 3 noon (PST)
I hope you’ll join me for one or more of these sure-to-be FUN sessions and please feel free to reach out directly with any questions.
All the best,
P.S. Don’t forget — to grab your spot just complete the form below and you’ll receive an invite to join me for the
first NEXT Making Connections Matter session on Wed, Sept 24th Nov 12, 2014!
I’m pleased to announce that I have an updated version of my DIY LinkedIn Profile Audit tool. This is a revision to my 2012 version and as my Valentine’s Day gift to you, it’s FREE! Complete the form to the right to get your download of my DIY LinkedIn Profile Audit Checklist today!
If you haven’t gone through my checklist before, I reco setting aside about 30-45 minutes this week to tackle my do-it-yourself LinkedIn profile audit and see if you don’t attract some new eyeballs, generate a few leads or (re)connect with some new people on LinkedIn. Enjoy!
Not the DIY type?
I also offer a personalized 2 hr session for business owners, job seekers or career climbers looking to take their use of LinkedIn for career management or business growth to another level. This is a deep dive into your LinkedIn profile and exploration of the many ways you can boost your brand, generate leads and grow your network via a new, polished presence on LinkedIn. If you’re ready to get started, please pay in advance and submit your session PAYMENT INFO HERE. This training is offered in a mutually convenient location to those in the SF Bay Area or as a phone or Skype/Google+ hangout session at only $279. Need to know more? Contact me via this handy form.
“Sandy is a career coach, motivator and guide par excellence. She has personally counseled and helped me think through my career objectives in light of my current experiences as well as future aspirations. I would recommend her to anyone looking to better message their current work experience, articulate their career objectives to potential employers or simply structure their resume. She is a LinkedIn savant and can also help anyone make better use of this excellent tool!” Alok Kapur, Mobile & Emerging Media Senior Business Executive, Microsoft
“I hired Sandy to help beef up my LinkedIn profile, and was very pleased with her services. She thoroughly explained how to raise my profile, walking me through every step, and I came away feeling significantly more informed and confident about making the most of this networking tool. She’s a great asset for any small business owner.” Laura H, Magazine and Corporate Communications Writer
“The two hours I spent with Sandy discussing my objectives and reviewing my LinkedIn profile were the best, most cost-effective two hours I’ve spent in a long time! Not only is Sandy an expert at virtually every aspect of LinkedIn, but also she makes the entire process fun and enjoyable. What’s more, since I’ve made the changes Sandy suggested, I have seen an increase in both the quality and quantity of my business leads. That’s ROI defined.” Emily C, Communications pro, small biz ownerRead More
Well, 2013 is almost a wrap and, to sum up a pretty great year, I’m sharing my top 5 articles/posts of 2013. You loved (and shared) them the first time, so here they are one more time — I hope you enjoy!
- 10 of My Favorite Quotes About Networking
- 7 Savvy Networking Tips
- The 10 Things I Do on LinkedIn Each and Every Week
- 3 Simple Steps to Get Started With a Company Page on LinkedIn
- 3 Things You Should Do On LinkedIn Sooner Rather Than Later
P.S. Last chance to take advantage of $50 off 2013 prices for a 2 hr personalized Boost Your Brand on LinkedIn session. Click here to secure this special pricing!Read More
It’s true. Even Al Roker, the weatherman for NBC’s TODAY show, gets overwhelmed by LinkedIn.
Actually, on Dec 11, 2013, and during the very chatty 3rd hour of TODAY, a segment aired about the most overused words on LinkedIn. And in it, he shared that he finds LinkedIn “annoying” and “overused.” [VIDEO]
To be exact, first, he said he found the unsolicited invites from people he knew annoying and that they should just call him. And then, after Natalie (Morales) was finally able to read the list of the words in question, he piped in again saying he had another word to describe LinkedIn and it was, “really annoying.”
Being the super fan/user of LinkedIn that I am, I couldn’t believe it! Did he really not know that he could change his Settings to control the Communications within and from LinkedIn? I sent out a tweet soon after hearing his negative critique of the world’s most popular business networking platform. Truth is, I was a bit stunned by the intensity of his disdain for LinkedIn in general and that he’d somewhat trash a public company so, um, publicly.
To my surprise, he (or one of his minions) replied to my tweet a few days later on Fri, Dec 13th, and then I replied to his tweet with a marked-up screen grab showing how he could change his settings (below, for convenience):
I also found some interesting tweets about it from Dec 12th:
What do you think? Did he overdo it or is he just a n00b and without a clear understanding of how he can manage his presence on the platform? Do you think I should offer to appear on the show and give him a LinkedIn Hacks session? (I’m all in!)
Please copy, paste and tweet this if you think I should pitch them:
@TODAYshow you need to invite “LinkedIn Ninja” @sandyjk on to do a #LinkedIn Hacks session w/ @alroker She can definitely help him!
Or, just click the text below and a tweet (that you can still edit) will be generated for you!
Please let me know if you have any questions about these Settings or want to take advantage of my Dec ’13 promotion to save $50 on a 2 hr personalized LinkedIn learning session with yours truly. We can focus on your profile, Settings, Company Page or even Groups, whatever you’d like.
Here’s the link to secure the special pricing today!