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Making the Right Social Media Connections

by Bill Corbett Jr. 

There is much debate about who to connect with on social media sites. Without fail whenever I give a workshop on LinkedIn or Social Media I get the questions. Who should I connect with?  Should I connect with somebody I don’t know?  What is the advantage of connecting with people I don’t know or don’t know well? 

These and other questions about who to connect with provide the perfect starting point for developing your social media business and relationship development strategy. 

First let’s look at the question – should I connect with somebody I don’t know?  A better question is why should I network?  When networking in the real world we are counting on, to some degree at least, the randomness of life and interactions to meet new people.  “Networking is a contact sport,” according to Bruce Libman author of Total Networking. Often we go to networking meetings and are introduced to people we don’t know.  Would you refuse to talk with this new person?   Of course not, the purpose of networking is to meet people.  Now the meeting is over and you are looking at their business cards.  You ask should I connect with them online?  This depends to some degree on who they are, what they do, how they interacted with you and if they are a prospect or a potential source of referrals.

We have found that people who are pushy and immediately trying to make a sale, trying to quickly access your contacts or ask for referrals before they get to know who you are, probably are not the best people to connect with online.  Connecting with them will send the wrong message.  “Think before you connect,”.  We don’t want to encourage unprofessional activities or sales cyber stalking.  Keep these folks at bay and don’t connect on Facebook or LinkedIn especially.  Focus instead on the people who make the right impression and who are best matches for you.  Do you have description of who your ideal client is or ideal referral source?  If you don’t, take the time to write this up and refer back to it often. 

Quality connections made at networking events can prove to be productive for years for both parties.  Upon meeting and determining that an individual is a good match as a potential prospect, referral source or just a good business resource, take a proactive step.  Personally invite the individual into your network.  Send an email, personal note or if you have the capability send them a brief video.  This personal interaction will allow you to stand out and is a good way to start.  But this is just the beginning; relationships of any kind require attention, a strategy and persistence.  We all want to make sales, generate income and move our careers in a positive direction.  When done professionally and in a way that benefits both parties, the potential for success in the long term is improved dramatically.  

After making a connection, (especially on LinkedIn) it is important to share and communicate often. Ask the individual to do the following to help them engage and understand who you are.  Don’t forget to reciprocate, ask them about their business, and follow them on their social media sites and subscribe to their blog if they have one.  Asking questions is key, you need to find out who they want to meet, where they network and who their ideal clients and referral sources are.  “We’ve all heard the saying “you get back what you put in.” Social media is no exception to this rule,”.

Suggest to a new contact that they subscribe to your blog, explain why they should and what it is about, ask them to subscribe to your YouTube Channel, point out particular videos that might be helpful to them, if you have a Facebook or LinkedIn Group ask them to become members as well.  I stress groups of your own because this is a place where people who already like you have come together and this is an ideal place where you can show your expertise by driving the direction of the conversations that the group takes.  Having an active group full of fans is the ideal setting to educate prospects and referral source.

When a contact is placed into your “engagement program,” don’t forget the personal communications.  Create reminders or a schedule for reaching out.  If the prospect has potential or the individual is a possible referral source track interaction activities and set goals. There must be a point in time where the relationship will be mutually beneficial, hopefully, financially beneficial for both parties. Down the road, if a barrier is reached, review and determine if future efforts are worthwhile.  In some instances it may be best to suspend activities and move on to more productive opportunities.  Keep your relationship pipeline full.  However, don’t be afraid to flush out unproductive leads.

We have an idea now of who to connect with; individuals who have the potential of being clients, referral sources or resources of support or information. On the contrary everyone may not be a good connection.  For example people who are direct competitors.  These individuals may seek to find out who your clients or contacts are and “go after them.”  I see why some fear this, however I don’t think this should be a major concern.  Competitors could go after your clients at any time, however any professional who worries about this should focus their attention on the client and make sure that they are pleased with services and the relationship.  Create a system for who to let in and who not to let in. 

Here are a few quick points to consider as criteria for who not to connect with:

1)    Few connections (under 100) – This means an individual is not an active social media user – they may not be worth connecting with online or not at this time.

2)    Photo – No photo, poor photo, logo or two people in a photo are all signs that the user does not care about their image and probably not a good candidate.

3)    Solicitors and spammers – If you feel the individual is going to send an unwanted solicitation for business, plans to add your email to spam lists or in general will be an annoyance, pass on connecting with them.  You may consider asking them some questions before you connect.  If they don’t respond it’s probably not a good idea to connect.

4)    Newbie or inactive.  “If somebody does not use LinkedIn much, or has no network to speak of, why connect with them?”  If someone rarely posts, shares, likes or comments this means that they probably are not very active in social media.  They too may not be worth the effort.  It is hard to build relationships with people who don’t communicate,

5)    Spammers or sellers.  In some of the groups that I belong to I constantly see people posting sales messages, specials and “opportunities.”  All of this is sales oriented garbage to me.  Social media is for building relationships and not for selling 100 percent of the time.  Never selling, is not an absolute rule, in some instances or periodically a sales message may be appropriate and it certainly depends on the industry.   However,
if you see a person engaged in this activity all the time you will likely receive some unwanted messages.   If you don’t want to be approached, don’t connect.

6)    Controversy, politics and religion.  Some people use social media to express their personal, political and religious opinions.  This is a choice they make.  If you are using social media for business you may not want to connect online with people who actively engaged in these activities. Posts from friends and other contacts can and will appear in your feeds and conversations are public.  No matter what side you are on there will be people who disagree.  Watch what connections are saying and decide if you want to be associated with them.

Connections develop into relationships that lead to business and/or referrals.  If this was not the case then why network or be involved with social media to begin with?  Yet we all need to spend our time effectively to create relationships that work and to keep away from people who are not right for us.  Create a system for developing relationships and have standards that must be met in order for a connection to be made. With these strategies in hand your relationship development and business growth using social media will be enhanced.