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31 October  2008 ~

Social networking success Earlier this week, a friend was mentioning a discussion he had with a common acquaintance of ours.  This acquaintance, said, “he gave up on LinkedIn & social networking as he simply didn’t see any benefit for himself to continue to pursue it”.   This seems to be a common frustration, yet with LinkedIn now over 30,000,000 registered users and growing at more than 1.2 million users per month and having raised a roughly $100 million in venture funding, clearly they are doing “something right” for social networkers.  Let’s try to examine this dichotomy further.

We all continue to hear the same phrases over and over again—I’m too overwhelmed, I’m too busy, I can’t put my full attention to that, etc.  It seemed that increasing business success and finding more time went hand in hand…or so I thought.   One day, when I met my buddy Pete at a coffee shop, he talked about a certain type of success and described it in rather simple terms.  He described a little kid, sitting on a dock with his fishing rod in the water.  The kid fishes for some time, but nothing happens. So at some point, he gets bored, decides to lay back and takes a nap while leaving his baited hook in the water.  When he wakes up, he excitedly finds that he hooked a fish while he was sleeping.  The reason why he was successful without having to be actively engaged was pretty straightforward. He prepared himself for success by doing the simple things —baiting the hook and putting the hook in the water.

I think that is a great metaphor for social networking.  It is not about achieving success in 24 hours, rather it is about doing the simple things that set you up for the opportunity to achieve success 24 hours a day.  Social networking occurs globally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I know that I have arisen on multiple occasions to find that people I used to work with from outside the US had found my profile and were interested in reconnecting with me.  Now that is what LinkedIn is about; a place to find people and a place to be found.  It’s all about leveraging a communication tool and it is up to the user to determine how they will use this communication platform to create their success.  This might range from the simple connecting with people they’ve lost contact with to finding a new job to finding new talented individuals to add to your business to creating a new revenue channel. 

If you look at LinkedIn as some magical catalyst, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Conversely, if you look at LinkedIn for what it is, a conduit, and use it as such, you will tap into a tool that will enhance your chances for success.

Let’s take a deeper look at the acquaintance we mentioned in the opening paragraph.  He said he gave up on social networking, yet interestingly, he perpetually network for new clients for his business, so he will still network in the traditional face to face format.  What does this mean?  He will go out to events, meet many of the same people over and over, but continue to build his relationships all with the intent that he will connect with someone, someday who can introduce him to a customer in his target market. Incidentally, this gentleman pays many thousands of dollars annually to belong to a networking group.

Can LinkedIn or social networking do this?  While meeting someone who refers business directly to you from LinkedIn is not impossible, it is made more cumbersome by the fact that the contact process tends to be less personal.  After all, most of the communication is online oriented, very little face to face.

However, what social networking excels at in this process is to shorten the prospecting cycle and enable a better targeting of one’s target market.  Remember, if this gentleman puts his “fish hook in the water”, he will be promoting his expertise 24 hours a day.   With that fundamental supporting him, now he can afford to be creative. 
Here’s one strategy… Since social networking is growing so fast, he can get more involved in it, talk to his peers, colleagues, business partners and share his knowledge with them to help them. Clearly people have a curiosity about it which will open doors and through that, he can subtly talk about the type of businesses he is targeting.  He will continue to build relationships, educate people on his target customer and generate referrals, probably at a faster rate than he currently does now.  In this example, LinkedIn functions in an indirect way, but will still help get to the same end point in a quicker fashion.  That’s just one simple strategy, there are at least 3 more I can think of at the moment.  The key is to understand what LinkedIn can do, put your fishhook in the water, be a little creative and spend a little time each day working at the goal you are trying to achieve.

The author of this post has authored a new book called – 42 Rules for 24 Hour Success on Linkedin.

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