Years ago after I decided to change careers from journalism to public relations, I ran into “Lori,” a teacher acquaintance while shopping in the greeting card section of Target. She was excited to see me because she had some information for me. The non-profit organization where she worked had decided to hire a communications director. I thanked her for the info, mailed off my resume, got called for an interview and was hired.
That incident occurred before the common person had access to the internet, when “networking” was done by shaking hands, exchanging business cards, joining professional and civic organizations, and doing lunch. Lori was a friend of a friend I had met through Toastmasters (where I’d also met my future husband). Due to our mutual friend, Lori and I had socialized together, hung out, gone to the same parties, etc.
That’s how networking works. It’s social, friendly and informal. You get to know people as people before business comes into play. My friend was telling me about how he managed to get to know people through his unique business card. It was certainly a conversation starter. It is a video business card he got through Elev8, if you’re interested you should check out their portfolio. They have dealt with a broad range of niches and I hear the quality is fantastic.
Yet some folks new to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo groups, etc. are mystified by how the new “social networking/marketing” works. Social networking, as the cyberspace version has come to be called, is no different than the meet-and-greet business networking of yore.
It’s still about making friends—or at least making nice acquaintances—one person at a time. It’s about forging relationships first, then promoting your book (or business) second, even though the latter might be your underlying motivation.
It’s an indirect, low-key, soft-sell approach. People who approach it with a hard-sell quickly find that it doesn’t work. Doing a broadcast promo of your latest release to people you don’t know will fall on deaf ears. It’s the equivalent of making a telemarketing call at dinnertime. All you’ll get is a click, a click of the phone hanging up, a click of a mouse hitting delete.
Tell a friend about your newest release and you’ll get a different response.
Some people are natural networkers. They make friends easily. For shy people, like myself, it seems to take more effort and energy. But this is what I’ve learned so far:
- Relationships take time to forge and time to tend. If haven’t done anything to establish a network and you’ve just published a book—you’re behind the eight ball. The published-author wannabes who start websites and blogs and begin tweeting before they have a book out have the right idea. The time to make contacts is before you need them.
- YOU need to be the one to extend the overture. Reach out to other people first. The Golden Rule (Do Unto Others) definitely applies here. Treat other authors as you would wish to be treated. Respond to their posts, help them promote their books, get to know them.
- Response often comes in tiny ways. Don’t ignore or overlook small overtures that do come your way. Mind your Ps and Qs. Say please and thank you. If someone does you a favor, no matter how small, acknowledge it. Better yet—reciprocate.
- Be friendly. Never underestimate the power of small talk. Remember social networking is only the cyber version of the timeless networking concept.
- Accept that some people will respond to you and others won’t. You will extend overtures that will be rebuffed. That’s life. Some people don’t mesh well together and weren’t meant to be friends.
So there you have…my two cents about social networking. I’d like to hear your thoughts about how social networking has or hasn’t worked for you.