How Do You Network?
Imagine you've entered a networking event with 100 people in attendance. What is your goal? Is it to introduce yourself to 100 people and leave? It is to collect 100 business cards? Or is it to actually cultivate some sort of ongoing relationship with them?
Better yet, imagine you've just entered a room with 100 potential or existing customers. What is your goal? Do you want to grab a megaphone, and shout to the room about your newest promotion or product? Do you think that would be effective? Don't you think it would be more effective to work the room, introduce yourself, get to know the other person, and begin to form a genuine relationship? Perhaps you'll only meet 40 of the 100 people in the room, but you've made a genuine connection with these 40 individuals.
The down side to networking as a person who is genuinely interested in another person is that it takes more time. The up side is that the relationships you form are stronger - which influences brand trial and loyalty. Clearly, establishing a strong relationship with a customer or potential customer is a better idea than a tertiary relationship.
So, why did I ask you these ridiculous questions with obvious answers? It's because too many companies and organizations that use social media abuse it, and treat it like a race to collect contacts. They're quick to collect fans, or friends, or tweeps, or contacts. The name of the game in social media is not friend collection. It doesn't matter if you have 2,000 or 20,000 "friends" if you don't spend the time to really foster the relationship. Collecting 20,000 friends on Twitter in an instant is the equivalent of walking through a room and shaking 20,000 hands. What have you accomplished? What connection or relationship have you really created? They don't care about you and they know you don't care about them.
Social media reminds us that relationships are of paramount importance. Not necessarily numbers. Has anyone ever asked you how many real-life friends you have? If they did, could you answer them? Probably not - because we don't view our real-life relationships in numbers, we measure them in value, closeness, trust and understanding. I challenge you to think of your customers and potential customers in this same way. The numbers will come. And they'll be a more realistic measure of who you actually have a connection to.