Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's Not About You!

How do you use social media in your professional role? Do you read other people's posts and respond to them, or do you just make anouncements about yourself, your products and services? Using Twitter as an example, many of the followers I see on the site aim to only market themselves or their products, rather than "listen" to others and make a connection with them. I admit, I did this too when I first started out.

I'm learning very quickly that social media and networking, just like in-person networking, is NOT about you! I know you must be and look puzzled by now (hence the picture of my dog below, looking just as you might feel).


Surely you're asking yourself, "I'm using social media to get publicity for my services and products. Why else would I be on here? Why wouldn't I talk about what I can do or sell?"

Instead of looking at social media as a one-way announcement tool, let's consider it as a way of forming relationships. In this light, we'll likely approach people differently.

I'll use an example to demonstrate. Let's say you're a professional who graduated college four years ago. You're trying to reconnect with some friends. So, you setup a happy hour and invite your close friends, but you're trying to meet new people too. So, you've asked them to bring a friend you haven't met yet.

The night starts out fine. As you're walking around and talking to people, Josh, one of Scott's friends, approaches you. You haven't met Josh before, but you've heard he's a techie who loves his work. He comes up to you and says something like, "Hi, I'm Josh. I run a social networking site for college grads called MyCollegeSite.com. You should visit it sometime."


What's your first reaction to this? You'll likely pull Scott off to the side and tell him never to bring this guy again, or any other character like him. In fact, you may even question Scott's judgement on the type of friends to bring.

This is no different than many of the interactions on social networking sites. I certainly get approached by some folks telling me to checkout their site, products, or services when they don't even know if I'm interested.

Arguably, if I've asked to be connected to them on LinkedIn, or I'm following them on Twitter, I must have found something in common with them. That may be, but I still don't know anything about them except what's written on their site. What I'm looking for is a way to get to know them personally. I want to know whether or not I get along with them. Are they the kind of people I'd invite over to my house for dinner? If not, I'd much prefer not to do any business with them either. After all, I want to know and work with people I trust, not just anyone off the street.

What I'm suggesting we do on social networking is nothing short of what we expected Josh to do at the party: approach each person to get to know them personally. What they like and don't like. Whether they're a sports nut, art fanatic, poet, or an avid golfer. We want to connect with each other on a personal level. Then when it comes time to look for a product or service, we have a better perspective if the person we know recommends or offers one. In fact, we'll trust their judgement easier if we know and trust them personally.

Ask yourself this question then: how are you building trusted long-lasting relationships in your in-person interactions? Why wouldn't you apply these same techniques to social media?