relationships versus networking

Toronto social media marketer, Mahfuz Chowdhury (@cmahfuz) had a nice piece on LinkedIn this week on why your social media networking may not be working.

You’re “networking,” as opposed to “relationship building.”

Picture doing this at a networking event, says Chowdhury.

You immediately start searching for potential customers and approach them with your well-prepared elevator pitch. You talk about your awesome products and brag about your newest promotion. Before they even get a chance to slip a word in, you are already sliding them your business card and telling them to contact you.

You go home and constantly pull out your phone to see if any buyer has contacted you. When you see no calls, you start to question whether the phone number on your business card was incorrect all along. Eventually, the sad reality hits you: no one is interested.

This is how many lawyers and law firms treat social media. A place to distribute content to gain attention, promote themselves, and draw traffic to their website or blogs.

Now picture going into an event with the purpose of building meaningful relationships, says Chowdhury.

You don‘t even bother bringing business cards. Instead, you walk up to people (I said people, not “potential customers”) and get interested in why they are there. You ask questions about what they are offering and learn about their business. They will also likely ask some questions about what you do, so you share some information about your business. You don’t offer your business card but instead ask for theirs. You continue to do this for the remainder of the event.

You go home and send them an email about what a pleasure it was to meet them. They are no longer a stranger to you, they are now a friend. If you know other people that can benefit from their products and services you send them referrals.

Listening to what is being said on social media, including blogs, and joining the conversation enables you to get to know people, establish trust, and build relationships. Listening is in fact more important in relationship building than talking (publishing or sharing content).

As you spend time on social network sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t feel pressured to make something happen. Get to know people for who they are. Let other folks get to know you.

The topic of conversation, perhaps your area of work, just facilitates the relationship building. You needn’t prove anything with your commentary, whether it be on a personal or professional matter.

Success need not be measured by “how many leads or clients I think I am going to get.” Success can be measured by the one or two people who got to know you and whom you got to know.

Establishing a relationship with a small number of a people is more meaningful than superficially meeting ten or twenty people.

“People do business with people they know, like, and trust,” says Chowdhury. “You are far more likely to be successful by building relationships using social media than you will ever be by spraying virtual business cards to your network.”

Get to know people. Build relationships.

Calls will come from them and the people they refer to you. You can’t rush human nature.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Just Ard