Today I’m going to talk about social media and live networking and why they’re similar in so many ways. If you run a business, here are some hints about how they work and how you can also help fellow businesses to use them. If you have friends who run businesses, see how you can help them extend their reach and help more people.
Whether I’m talking to an individual at a networking event, tweeting a link to a blog post or updating my status on Libro’s Facebook page, I’m (hopefully) addressing two audiences. The first is the person I’m speaking to. And the second is the people to whom they could potentially carry my message.
Networking events, co-working sessions, Twitter followers, Facebook friends – what they have in common is that each is a network. Think of it like pyramid selling or chain letters but in a good way. X knows 2 people who know 2 people each, that’s 4, each of those know two people and that makes 8 – even if some of them know each other, the network doubles each time. Or rabbits. It’s a bit like rabbits, too …
These networks are more diverse and varied than you might at first think. Even if you’re close to someone in your life, history or profession, it is unlikely that your network overlaps with theirs completely. Some examples …
- My partner of 12 years – I have 353 friends on Facebook, he has 115, but we only share 62 of those people.
- A Birmingham friend interested in the same things as me has 161 friends – and only 80 of them are shared with me.
- An old University friend who is a freelancer like me has just 8 mutual friends out of a total of 239.
- Similarly, Libro has 115 individual “likers” plus 8 businesses, so I make sure I share some of my Libro updates with my wider circle of friends.
- It’s the same on Twitter – I’m pretty sure that not all my friends’ followers are following me (although it’s harder to extract the figures there), so if I retweet a business’s message, my 833 followers will see their message, and if they retweet mine, theirs will know about me.
When I’m at a networking meeting, I’m aware that the person I’m talking to is not always likely to want to buy my services. But it’s very likely that, if I’ve made a good impression on them, they will remember me, and when they come across someone else in their social or business network who needs something that I offer, they will recall my details and pass my information on. There’s lots of research on how to ensure that happens, but the general principle stands.
In the same way, if I tweet or put up a Facebook update about something Libro’s doing, the people who see it directly from me probably know all about what I do, or they might not need a proofreader or transcriber right now. But if they “share” the Facebook post or retweet the tweet, who’s to know who out of their wider circle might find it useful?
Much of my work comes through personal recommendation, usually from previous clients, but also through networks of friends and associates. This isn’t a plea to share and retweet my stuff, though … it’s a general reflection on how you can help your friends with businesses small and not-so-small to grow their networks and get known about. Even large organisations need this – I was talking to someone from a museum just the other day, and he was bemoaning the lack of likes and shares on their Facebook page. Which is, by the way, good, engaging and interesting.
Hopefully this post has made some entrepreneurs, and most importantly their friends, aware of just how important the power of networks can be to their businesses. Share a post or a tweet by a friend, a charity you support, a business you like … and someone in your network of contacts might find just what they need!
Postscript: Given the riots in the UK that happened just after I posted this piece, and the discussion on social media surrounding them, I thought I should say a few words on that subject. Social media – Twitter, Facebook and the like – are just another communication medium, like newspapers, letters and the telephone. Even if some newspapers print vile things, it doesn’t mean newspapers in themselves are dangerous and evil. Poison pen letters don’t lead to calls for paper and pens to be banned. Personally, during the riots, I saw many good things come through Twitter, in particular. My local pub and other people in my area tweeted out reassurances that all was quiet. The police and the Resilience Team sent out messages of calm and information, and we retweeted those to help damp down unsubstantiated rumours. I heard about the cleanup campaign through Twitter and would never have known about it without that medium. So don’t worry that you’re helping perpetuate some kind of evil empire if you retweet a message about a decorators or editor – it’s just a communication channel!