Social networking and scoring a ‘date’ in the world of digital business

While some people out there may think of social networking as a fad, or even an annoyance, I think it may be the best thing since, well…  networking.  Sorry if you were hoping for something profound there…  And while I can’t seem to join enough networks myself, I find myself running into more and more of these:

Anybody there?

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I understand that on a platform as massive as facebook, there are security concerns for people who are high school teachers or may have had an over-zealous admirer of two in the past.  But that’s the exception.  When we’re talking about a platform that you’re using to market yourself or your business like the RedWire network for entrepreneurs, the Greenlight Community, the League of Kickass Business People, or even in some cases, twitter – if you’re representing yourself with the a pale, faceless avatar (and bad haircut), you’re really just shooting your self in the foot.

In this calendar year alone, I’ve made dozens of new connections in business and even many new friends simply due to my active presence on networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and various Ning networks, like the two mentioned above.  Those connections have been made through my complete willingness to put myself out there and to follow up with the personal touch by connecting in person, or when that’s not possible by phone or Skype.  In nearly every case, my connection has been made with someone else who was willing to put themselves out there, connect, discuss, and take a genuine interest in who I am and what I do.  It’s really quite a lovely match, when both parties are open to the process.

In these ways, social networking is far superior to old fashioned networking because the online world provides a physical separation to allow you to learn more about the person you’re interacting with before you spend valuable time investing in the relationship.  Really, it’s a lot like online dating.  And for anyone who’s ever experienced that world (no comment), you’ll know that success is all about putting your best foot forward.

So how do you do that?  Amazingly, it’s quite simple:

  • Put up an actual photo of yourself: For bonus points, make it say something about the way you hope people will perceive you – professional, lighthearted, environmentally conscious, whatever!  If you’re on multiple networks, you might want to consider using a common photo so people can easily identify you.
  • Provide links: Lots of ‘em!  Link to your company, link to your blog, link to your twitter account, link to your LinkedIn profile – give people a way to learn more about you.
  • Complete your profile: If the network you’re joining asks for information about you – provide it.  People will be far more likely to network with you if they can gain an understanding of what you do and why you’re a part of the community.
  • Connect: Connect with people in your niche area of interest and respond to people who are interested in you.  Send an email.  Set up a call.  Go for coffee.  You’ll be holding, er, shaking hands in a boardroom in no time (sorry, mixed up my metaphor there).
  • Bring out your personality: This can be done throughout all of the examples above and, on some networks, you can import photos, feeds, and more that will help give a great picture of who you are and why you’d make a great ‘date’!
  • Don’t be a douche: I think the eloquence of this one speaks for itself.  Don’t be spammy, pushy or ignorant.  Be good to your community and your community will be good to you.

I suppose I could go on, but really, it’s just that simple.  If you put forth a little effort to show who you are, why you’re there, and why people should like you – you’ve done your job.  After that, you’ll be able to utilize the platform to its full networking potential.  So before you go joining another social network, ask yourself a few questions:
Are you really hoping to connect with people there?
Will it really benefit your personal profile or your business?
And most importantly, do you care enough about it to put in the time needed to present yourself properly?

Please consider these things – for the sake of all of us out there looking for our next great business relationship.  Because nobody wants to date an albino with a cowlick….

What are your thoughts on social networking for business folks?  Ever tried to ‘date’ an auto-gen avatar?  Please leave your $0.02 below in the comments:

  • Alex Ikonn

    Hey Andrew,

    Great examples of how simple social networking for business folks online can be. And auto-gen avatars rarely spark conversation or a beginning of a relationship. Social networking is great not only because of it's simplicity but on how much money one can save (no gas, no membership fee, no lunch with strangers, etc)

    Additional Tip for People- Even if you have moved on from auto-gen avatar, try to keep the avatar being you and not your boat or car.

    Hope you ignited a fire in people reading this post who haven't yet starting networking online.

    Alex “Simple” Ikonn

  • Andrew Lane

    Thanks for your comment, Alex! And great point, I rarely choose to network with boats :)

  • donaghmcsweeney

    I agree, great examples of the simplicity of business social networking. I think that numerous businesses out there are new to the social networking scene and are unsure about how to go about it. Following the steps you have outlined is a great start. From there you need to emerse yourself into the community and engage, engage, engage!

    Other buzz words I could use are attitude, clarity, friendship, trust and communication. All important steps in the road to success with social networking, for businesses!

    Also, tools like gravatar are good when you want to communicate via blogs as you can have your avatar added automatically ;)

  • Andrew Lane

    Thanks for these additional notes – all really valid stuff. Also, nice point with gravatar (it serves me well). For anyone interested, you can find it here:

  • Andrew Lane

    Thanks for these additional notes – all really valid stuff. Also, nice point with gravatar (it serves me well). For anyone interested, you can find it here:

  • Andrew Lane

    Thanks for these additional notes – all really valid stuff. Also, nice point with gravatar (it serves me well). For anyone interested, you can find it here: