Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Professional networking: How to strengthen potential business relationships

Have you written down or clearly defined a reason for being on social media? One stark reality of social media is that you cannot control what people are saying about you as a company or individual. So it is critical to develop a positive professional presence in select, relevant, targeted social media and measure it.  

Twitter for instance is one hundred and forty characters of commentary/link bit like a SMS text that anyone can “follow” or “retweet” that is the uncontrollable part. However you can decide who to follow and the content you “tweet”.

For instance our policy on Twitter (@AgCareersNZ) is to apply the “don’t alienate and no regrets principal” to a posting. Only relevant job or informative industry related topics or links are to be tweeted.

Core purpose or benefit(s) of Twitter are definitely instant alerts about who mentions your brand, Secondly it allows you to follow key influencers and finally getting the scoop on ground-breaking news tweeted well before traditional news media get the story out.

For instance NZTE tweeted “this is major! RT @nz_tech: kiwi blogger sells blog to US company for US$5 million (with the link to the story). I might (a very big might) read that in this Friday’s newspaper. Another tweet 22 hours ago alerted me to someone I want to connect with. Tom Phillips Tweet about KiwiNet bringing agriculture and technology together had the abbreviated link to the article on… via @computerworldnz, nice!

So that’s really the core benefit of Twitter: seeing brand mentions, following key influencers and instant news updates or links to latest articles.

Facebook is for Friends, not acquaintances, not business contacts and certainly not for B2B markets. Why you ask? Well whilst it is with out a doubt the most dominant and popular social network site it is Facebook’s poor past performance at protecting privacy and information posted is poor. Recent exercise to customize privacy settings required fifty-three settings to be changed. So our presence on Facebook is minimal and privacy settings are set to absolute minimal. With a posting saying happy to connect to close friends, otherwise connect to us on our professional network.

As for Linkedin well we embraced that as it provides good market intelligence and a way to keep those connected to you informed. Again content is king as is the quality of those you connect to they should reflect your target market, with the occasional good-to-know business contact in the mix.
I frequently use LinkedIn as my follow-up tool when I’ve met someone with whom I’d like to stay connected. Its most likely I will have their email address, thanks to the business card they gave me at an event, So you can send a them a LinkedIn invite using it.

One major caveat though is that you absolutely, positively need to write a personalized note in the invitation to connect. This means you have to go to their profile page first and then scan the right side of the page for the yellow “Connect” box and check off which type of connection might apply (colleague, classmate, friend, etc.). Be ready to supply the email address you have, if necessary, and definitely edit the canned message in the personal note box on the screen.

Trust me, you’ll differentiate yourself from the masses if you personalize your message. Most people don’t, for some reason. By doing so, you’re more likely to create some good social capital, as well as get your invitation accepted. After all that’s what it is all about! I rarely accept an “Invitation to Connect” unless the person sending it has taken the 10 seconds to write a brief note or at least remind me of how we met.

Here’s an example of something I might write:

“Gwen, I really enjoyed hearing about your career goals for 2012 and, if I can be of any assistance to you in the New Year, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Let’s stay connected via LinkedIn and I hope you have a happy holiday season.”


Dear John,

Happy New Year. At AgCareers New Zealand we believe that people make the difference. So I invite you to my Linkedin network to discuss sector opportunities & issues in 2012

Mike Malone AgCareersNZ Informed Source & Connector

But remember more important than the technology, the latest widget/gadget/app. You are dealing with real people, most of them in Agriculture so there needs to be some good o’l fashion rapport, some emotional engagement. So still value the opportunity to meet face-to-face and communicate well. Social media is just another tool so use it wisely, use it well and have a positive inspiring start to 2012.

Next blog will be focusing on visual media and how TV ruined your life.


Mike – The bloke who likes to keep Informed and meet real people.

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