Today most people agree that networking is essential, both for developing a new or existing business and for getting a job. But even as people have gotten relatively comfortable with in-person networking events — prepare an elevator speech about what you do or who you are, have your business cards at the ready, and work the room — networking via social media often feels much more challenging, especially if you’re not a born geek or are over 40.
But according to Jeremy Goldman, principal of the Firebrand Group and author of the new book “Going Social,” online networking is not so different from the flesh-and-blood kind, and when successful may itself lead to meetings in person.
Think about Twitter, where lots of people are talking about the same thing, adding their opinions in real time in messages limited to 140 characters. “Twitter,” says Goldman, “is 200 open conversations happening at a party at the same time.” People know the conversations are public and tend to be open to new people joining in. “You’re not at a party where you have to introduce yourself and finagle your way in,” he adds.
Goldman will speak on “Going Social: Connecting Social Marketing to Business Prospecting,” on Thursday, January 17 at 7 p.m. in CS-104, around the corner from the Computer Science Building at Princeton University, which is at the intersection of William and Olden streets. Attendees are asked to RSVP via www.njcama.org. For more information, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goldman offers a few tips for those starting to dip their toes into social marketing:
Sign up on multiple services and watch for keywords related to your business. By this Goldman does not mean typing just your brand or business name into a search field. Content words may work better. For example, if a woodworking company searches for “woodworking” or perhaps “carpentry” on Twitter, there may be opportunities to jump into a conversation on the subject. By offering an opinion about a problem someone is facing, business owners can build affinity before people are actually looking to purchase.
If Twitter seems overwhelming, he suggests, people should spend a little time getting used to it, trying to figure out one basic step each day. Start with searching, by typing either a word or a phrase in quotes in the search field.
Make partnerships with related businesses and suggest them in online conversations. Partners may be members of the same business association or conference or even another company related to what you do. Suggesting a partner while building affinity is less self-serving than trying to sell something yourself, and if the product is a good one, the person is likely to remember you for your great suggestion.
Put targeted ads on Facebook. Goldman suggests that the ad-targeting platform on Facebook is much stronger and more developed than the one on Twitter. “There are opportunities for developing a very targeted message,” he says. For his lecture (or “speak,” if you want to get the jargon right) at Princeton, for example, he might place an ad targeting men and women from ages 29 to 34 who live within 20 miles of Princeton and have an interest in social media; and anyone who clicks on the ad would be taken to his website.
The pricing for ads, explains Goldman, depends on how many others are betting on the same demographic — the price will go up the more people want to reach the same slice of the universe. The cost is maybe a dollar or a dollar and a half per click, but for every time someone clicks on his ad, it is hopefully getting hundreds of “impressions” where people notice his ad but do not click. As with print media, you are paying for impressions about your idea or service, but with Facebook you can really fine-tune your target audience.
Create a Facebook group. Even though Facebook groups are not billed as “for profit,” they can be used as a collaboration area. These are confined areas where you can style and share files and photos.
“You can bring your best customers in there and share ideas about how to make their products and services better,” says Goldman. It also can serve as an intranet group and build affinity within a company where a business might pose questions like, “What can we do to attract new customers?” He adds, “I think social media can benefit just about every department in different ways.”
Use LinkedIn to connect with people. If people come up to you at a conference and you like them, you might make plans to meet them again. Similarly on LinkedIn, you can check people’s profiles and see whether you have common interests and a connection would be beneficial. The easiest way to do this is through Inmail, a paid LinkedIn option that allows you to send an e-note to people you are not already connected to but are interested in talking to; although it costs about $50 a month, Goldman says, “It has been invaluable to me. It pays for itself.”
Without Inmail, the only way to connect is to send a generic E-mail asking to connect with someone. This can create a problem on the receiving end when you get requests from people you’re not sure you know. Although the recipient appears to have only two options, to connect or just ignore the email, a third option is available through your LinkedIn account.
If you go to “View messages” under “Inbox,” you can click the arrow next “Accept” and choose “reply (don’t accept yet).” This allows you to send an E-note in response along lines suggested by Goldman: “Thank you so much for the request. To what do I owe this pleasure? What are you interested in having a chat about?”
Use Twitter to make connections in preparation either for upcoming travel or informational interviews. When traveling, Goldman uses a Twitter tool called Follower Wonk that lets people search other people’s profiles and locations.
To prepare for a recent panel in Providence, where he didn’t know anybody, he used this tool to find a bunch of people at companies big in Providence and “followed” them. “If they say something that interests you, you’ll respond, whatever the topic is,” says Goldman. “It doesn’t have to be specifically about business; pick companies you would like to do business with and people who have interesting biographies.”
After “following” some people, Goldman used another of Twitter’s capabilities to put them on a list. Then, when the date for his Providence panel got closer, he sent out an invitation to people on the list, saying, “I’m going to be in town for a day or two; do you want to have some coffee?” Often out of 20 people on a list, he might get six or seven who say yes. “The default is that most people are looking to make connections as opposed to not. It is a game of numbers,” he says, adding that it did not take much effort to do this.
Use your connections to get information about people you want to hire or be hired by. Human resources professionals can look at different prospective employees and learn how closely linked they are to those people, that is, whether they have mutual friends or connections.
Or, a person looking for a job can see whether they share a connection with someone at the company they are targeting; if they do, they can ask for an introduction or a recommendation for the job. Or, visa versa, an employer may ask mutual friends what they think of a person applying for a job.
Use the Facebook utility BranchOut to get professional help. Similar to LinkedIn, BranchOut exposes your professional information to others in its large network. In this open environment, expertise is easily available via a search. “I can immediately crowd source and supply any service I’m looking for,” says Goldman.
Goldman grew up in Manhattan, where his mother is assistant commissioner for the housing and preservation development department in New York City and his father is a lawyer.
At Emory University Goldman ran a cable show about the romantic entanglements of Emory students that was syndicated to some other college networks. His major was political science, and he minored in history and also completed a program in journalism.
Shortly after college, he started a small consulting business dedicated to solving companies’ online marketing problems. After a few years, he earned a master of business administration with a focus on information systems and marketing from the University of Maryland. He blogs at jeremygoldman.com and curates news daily to his Twitter following of more than 40,000.
He spent the better part of the last decade in marketing beauty products, first at L’Oreal and then at Unilever, where he was launching a luxury brand. Recently he publishing his book “Going Social” and left Unilever to start his own management consultancy, the Firebrand Group, which is focused primarily on solving companies’ marketing and communications issues.
Solutions, he says, might include developing a plan for marketing or for engaging online by using social media to its fullest or customer relations management, for example, by developing a strategy on how to best keep customer data in a database and what types of information should be used to reach out through social media or by E-mail.
The value of social networking, suggests Goldman, lies more in the power to create connections than in directly making sales. He cautions people not to jump in too quickly, but to use the social tools on the Internet to relate to people they are interested in getting to know, and the rest will follow. He cautions that being too mercenary is awkward and a turnoff. “The soft sell has become a lot more important online as opposed to being a shameless huckster or targeting people who have the immediate ability to benefit you,” he says.