The tools of a Social Networking Expert fall in to three categories:
Personal attributes – the knowledge, skills and experience that make someone a great networker
Tools of the trade – the things you use to manage your network and communicate with your “audience”
Activities – the things you do to increase the depth, breadth and strength of your network and reputation in the marketplace
It’s clearly a great help if you’re an outgoing and articulate person, who gets on well with people! But even if you’re not, then it doesn’t stop you from being seen by others as a highly competent networker – and being able to add tangible value to your network. The key areas to concentrate on are:
Being a great listener – attention is critical..... If you’re not making the effort – it’s obvious and insulting to the other person. If the person you’re talking to feels that you’d rather be somewhere else, then they’re not going to make the effort and you’re probably not going to be able to remember who they are and what they do.
Having a clear personal identity – people need to understand who you are and what you stand for in order to like, trust and respect you. Even simple things like having a good profile and photo on Social Networking sites (e.g. Ecademy) will help with this because people are much more likely to recognise you when they see you!
Your products/services must be clearly explained in a memorable way – if people don’t understand what you do and how you bring value, they cannot recommend you, however much they might like you as a person!
Be reliable – you can’t be trustworthy if you’re unreliable and people won’t refer or recommend you if they can’t be sure that you’ll deliver.
Train your memory – one of the key differentiators of any good networker is an excellent memory and instant recall of people’s names, their jobs, their products/services...... why’s this important? So that you can connect people and extend your network and reputation! Simple as that!
Tools of the trade – Good contact management is crucial to effective networking – it is crucial that you are able to look up relevant people and make connections between them or find the people you need. Tools for this include Plaxo (http://rorymurray.myplaxo.com/) or Cardscan (www.cardscan.net) and they are especially effective when integrated with Microsoft Outlook or a similar programme.
In terms of Social Networking sites, you need to have an active presence on some or all of the following business networking sites:
Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/in/rorymurray
Business Scene – http://www.business-scene.com/view_profile.php?u=rorymurray
There are many others too – e.g. Ryze, etc.
In addition to these, you should be attending networking events held by organisations like NRG (http://www.nrg-networks.com/) and Ecademy and meeting the people you have engaged with on-line.
Last, but definitely not least, you need to be blogging and contributing as an expert in relevant environments – Ecademy is excellent for this, as is Linkedin Answers, but it’s not enough on its own!
Some of the activities are mentioned above – here’s a bit more detail, as this is a key area for defining your expertise and reputation in the marketplace as a Social Networking Expert and moving rapidly towards being recognised by your network as an expert in your field(s) as well as being a highly connected and seasoned Social Networker.
There are a huge number of platforms available that will host your blog content and some are free! A specific blog follows on this subject, entitled Top Business Social Networks. The key thing is that you must be blogging regularly on different aspects of your expertise.
Some people feel that by giving tips and tricks away in their blog(s) they are devaluing their proposition – I’d argue the opposite! Teaching you how to sew doesn’t make you a tailor, it just means you can fix a lost button, or repair a small tear......... by demystifying what you do and helping people understand your value, your value actually goes UP – especially when they discover that it’s not so easy!
Attending events and arranging to meet people is also critical – connecting face-to-face with people you have met on-line and built a rapport with takes it to the next level and starts to cement a true friendship with the other person – a truly trusted relationship – especially if you are what they expected or even better in “real life”!
The bottom line is - it won't come to you and it takes work! You need to be connecting with people on-line, meeting people face-to-face and blogging about your expertise on a regular basis, to ensure that you maximise your reputation in the marketplace...... if you're not and your competitors are....... it may already be too late!