In my post yesterday I lamented about all the time involved in networking and, in particular, social media. I concluded noting the importance of networking outside your particular industry. I wanted to explore that a bit more.
To use myself as an example, over the past couple of years I’ve been working on building up my profile within the SEO community. I’d say I’ve done a fair job of that and have been able to build some pretty strong friendships with other SEOs and internet marketers. These are people I know I can turn to and rely on in times of need. And I hope they know the same about me.
And while my industry friends have and do refer business to me from time to time, they are not my target audience. Nor do they send me enough business to survive on. Which means that networking with my colleges provides only so much value when it comes to building business. Real networking value comes from getting exposure from an entirely different audience: your potential customers.
Places like Digg, Mixx, Reddit and so on can be valuable places to build profiles and become power users, but make sure that the time you invest in those sites is serving your needs rather than theirs. StumbleUpon can bring a lot of traffic, but is it bringing your target audience–potential customers? If not, then reconsider how much time you spend there. The same for any other social networking site.
The key to getting value from social networking is to first know your goals, set your expectations and then make sure the audience is the one you want to target. If you are looking for business, then make sure you find social sites that are frequented by your potential customers. Of course there are many other goals that will justify social networking such as links, knowledge, and so on. The same principle applies. Know your goals and make sure you know which social site helps you achieve which goals.
One crucial point to remember is that you can’t just engage in any social community for your own benefit. If you go in to be nothing but self-serving they’ll see right through you and you’ll soon find yourself back on the outside. Find a community and then find ways to be a helpful and active participant. Here the golden rule applies: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
And one final point with all the different social networking sites out there that you can (and probably should) be involved in: Take is slow. Start with one, build up a reputation, and then add another and start the process there. It takes more work to build up a presence and a profile than it does to maintain it. But as you move on to other places, stay active as much as possible. By taking these baby steps into social media, you’ll find yourself slowly working your way into the social media bubble.