I’ve been a passionate business networker for many years and have really benefited from this low cost method of marketing my business. I don’t advertise my business, I don’t push out flyers all I do is network. Over the years I’ve built up many contacts and these trusted business relationships have delivered a continuous flow of referrals that have kept my business running.
There are techniques and principles to being a successful business networker and what I’m finding interesting is that a lot of these same rules apply not only to face to face business networking but also to the social networking site Twitter. I make the distinction between Twitter and other social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn because with Twitter you can strike up a conversation quickly without the other party feeling pressured or threatened. It’s as though people who tweet accept the fact that they are in the business of having conversations.
To give you an example of what I mean. If somebody sent you an in-mail through LinkedIn effectively just touting their services, how would you feel? If you’re anything like me your reaction would be something along the lines of “what gives you the right to invade my space when I haven’t asked for it” or “this is pretty much like cold calling”.
Consider that you are at a business networking meeting and someone approached you and introduces themselves, in that environment you wouldn’t feel out of your comfort zone at all because that’s what business networking is all about and it’s ultimately why you are in the room in the first place.
The same applies to Twitter albeit its a virtual room and some of the techniques for meeting like minded individuals differ but effectively by Tweeting and responding to Tweets you are building up relationships and telling people about yourself. If someone you’ve never even heard of before sends you an @message do you feel threatened or offended? I think most people will answer that question with a “no”.
So the process of introducing yourself to others is pretty similar and some would argue even easier than face to face business networking because you are hiding behind your computer and once contact has been made, so begins the process of building the relationship and getting to know like and trust one another.
The same rule applies here whether you are on Twitter or working the room at your local business networking events and that is, do not sell. The sale comes a lot later down the line and if you sell you are selling to one individual who’s right in front of you (physically or virtually) and frankly at this early stage you really don’ have a clue whether they are interested in your products or services at all. These first exchanges are all about sharing information and finding things that you have in common as this forms part of the trust building process.
The interesting point about Twitter is that you can pre-empt this first phase by using the Twitter search facility to find people who are right in your business niche so these first exchanges although still very much on the relationship building level can actually be a lot more targeted that perhaps you first thought. If you think of Twitter as targeted business networking maybe you too can see how Twitter could overtake the face to face element.