"Are you on Facebook? What's your Twitter handle? Send me the link to your LinkedIn profile."
Thousands of social networking accounts are created every month. And a large percentage of those new networkers become easily frustrated because it doesn't seem to be working for them. It's what I like to call the "Field of Dreams" approach: if you build a profile, thousands of people will find you, become your friend, buy your products, offer you jobs, and anything else you need to become wildly successful.
If you've been exploring with social networking for a few months you know it's not that simple. Before you write off social networking as a waste of time though, consider these five reasons that social networking isn't working for you:
- You don't have anything interesting to say: In today's world things move fast. And information travels at light speed thanks to web and mobile technology. Are you providing outdated information? Talking about last year's trends with no new insights and observations? Or are you offering a unique perspective based on your personal and professional experience? This isn't about creating everything from scratch, but it is about being able to offer more than rehashed content and links to your network. This doesn't help you grow, nor does it help anyone else grow. True networking works because you bring a distinct flavor or brand to the party. With all the social networking opportunities and fellow networkers competing for my time – how are you going to capture my attention so I want to connect with you regularly?
- You don't have a clear message about who you are: Networkers who are clear about who they are, what they love, and what they do, are more interesting to connect to. Take the time to develop a social presence just like you would take the time to make sure that your physical presence commands a certain attention in a live networking event. In the beginning it may be a little sloppy – that's to be expected when you are just learning. But you have to learn fast and make the transition from sloppy messaging and style to confident, savvy, smartly branded communication. If you find someone with a style you like – learn from them. I didn't say stalk them or copy them. But do observe, take notes and find ways to let their savvy influence your own style.
- You don't have a fan club: People talk about people who are talked about. So how do you get people to talk about you? Start with a small group of friends or colleagues and become fans of one another. To do that, it means you have to invite your friends and colleagues to the party. Not only will you build up your list of contacts, but you get insight into who has connections to someone you may need to be introduced to. Tip: Always create a smaller inner circle of people who are willing to promote each other's content, events and ideas. This inner circle should also be willing to share insights and resources. Once you've built that inner and outer layer of your network, become a fan of other people. Do some research, checking out profiles and connections of people that interest you and extend them an invitation to join your network. I guarantee the person on Facebook with 1,000+ friends didn't get those friends by sitting around waiting for someone to discover their profile. Start with people who are in the same industry as you, or people who have joined the same groups that you have.
- You’re all take and no give: Are all your post about your job search, skills, or your group, and not enough about people and genuine connections? Don’t forget that the real reason people are looking for you is because they have a problem. Find out what it is. If you don't have an answer, refer them to someone or somewhere they can get help from. If you can't refer the people in your network to resources and information, then you need to step up your game so you have something to contribute. The social networking relationships that I invest the most in are those that help me solve my problems whether or not they can sell me something. I avoid like the plague, the social networker who is out for the hard-sell from the gate because they need to make money.
- You're looking for 15 minutes instead of 60 minutes: Despite the fascination with having lots of 'friends' or 'followers', social networking is not merely a popularity contest. At first glance it might seem that way. Take Twitter for example, everyone wants to connect the industry leader with thousands of followers. But consider how they got most those followers: they offer valuable insight and information. At the end of the day your network is about who you've helped and who has helped you, not just who has linked to you. If all you are concerned about is getting 1,000 friends or followers you miss the point. You are looking for 15 minutes of fame, and eventually you'll get it. But then it will be over and you still won't have the critical connections you need to make things happen. What you want is the 60 minute interview: There's a different level of depth and buzz associated with 60 minutes and that's where you want to be. Remember – at some point what's hot has to cool down. The trick is to create cycles of 60-minute waves that keep you at the forefront, rather than 15-minute peaks that are over in a flash.
So, before you write off social networking, try approaching it with the five considerations listed in this article. And keep in mind that nothing happens overnight. Just like it takes time to build rapport in face-to face networking, it takes time to build trust and genuine interest in someone in an on-line environment. If you are looking to build a network without investing the time to connect with people then social networking probably isn't for you. However, if you are ready to build relationships and willing to do the work, this list should help jumpstart your on-line networking efforts.