Excerpt from The Enthusiastic Networker

I hope you saw my announcement on Wednesday that my new book, The Enthusiastic Networker, is available. Today I wanted to give you an excerpt so you’ve got a better idea of what the book is about. Enjoy!

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Enthusiastic Networker

Before we begin, we need a common language. What is networking? What is social media? What are the characteristics of a successful networker? And what about referrals?

There are a lot of misconceptions about face-to-face networking. Some think it is another word for soliciting sales. Some think it’s about collecting cards and contacts. Some think it’s only about finding new prospects and clients. Still others think the way I used to:, believing it’s something that only a certain economic class of people do or that it’s what happens on golf courses or at ritzy fundraising benefits.

Social media has almost as many misconceptions. For example:

* It’s only Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (maybe blogging).
* It’s a complete waste of time.
* Only 25-35 year olds do it.
* It’s so essential that it’s the only way to save a business.

Most of these misconceptions do have a certain amount of truth to them. Many people network exclusively among people of their class. Salespeople certainly network to find new prospects. Social media can indeed expand to fill all available time and space. Younger people are, in general, more comfortable with social media than Boomers. And to some extent, you do have to collect a certain number of contacts in your database to be effective.

But at its heart, networking is about building relationships. Hopefully, these relationships will last a lifetime. These relationships will nurture you no matter what you need, whether the need be clients, a new job, or the name of a great plumber.

What Is Networking?

Networking is about helping others. As Zig Ziglar said in Zig Ziglar’s Secrets of Closing the Sale, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.” I suspect that he meant that from a sales perspective, i.e., he’s talking about helping others get want they want by selling it to them. But the statement works just as well, if not better, when seen from a networking perspective.

Think about it. If you help someone to get new clients, doesn’t it make sense that he will help you get clients in return? Or if you help someone get a new job, one that is just perfect for her and her career goals, don’t you think she will be highly motivated to help you get what you want?

Of course. That’s what networking is really about. It’s connecting people who need to meet each other. Sometimes, you will be the connector. If you are good at it and do it well, sometimes you will be the connected.

It’s that anticipation of being the connected and the satisfaction of being the connector that develops and maintains the enthusiasm. There’s a real emotional charge about receiving a referral. Sometimes, there’s an even greater charge from giving a slam dunk referral. In either case, you want it again and again. Kind of like an addiction, but in a way that harms no one and helps everyone.

Networking is not about collecting the most contacts. I know someone who boasted that she had thousands of contacts in her Outlook database. She was connected to more than a thousand people on LinkedIn. She went to lots of networking events each month where she met new people and connected them with each other. Sounds like she must be a pretty good networker, right?

Unfortunately, she also constantly complained that she had no clients. How can that be? She knew a lot of people. She went to events and continued to meet new people. How could she not have clients? With so many contacts, she should have had many people clamoring to work with her.

The truth was that she was a contact collector. Yes, she met a lot of people, collected a lot of business cards, and had many LinkedIn connections. But she had a relationship with very few of them. It’s not enough just to know a lot of people. Truly beneficial contacts are people who like you, who trust you, and who know enough about you to give you referrals. And that was the piece she was lacking. The relationship.

Networking Fundamentals: Remember that networking is about building relationships. In life, it’s not the one who dies with the most contacts who wins. It’s the one who has the most people speaking, with love and respect, at his or her funeral.

What is Social Media?

When someone says “social media” a lot of people think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, maybe MySpace or YouTube. But there’s a lot more to social media than these sites.

I define social media as “any way people meet each other, interact and build relationships online.”

Certainly the five sites above fit that definition. But social media is much broader than that.

Online forums or boards are social media. I hang out in the Wizards of the Coast D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) boards. I also often visit a forum for people who write Torchwood fan fiction (Torchwood is a dark spin-off from the British Dr. Who science fiction series). I mostly lurk on those boards, but if I wanted to, I could certainly build relationships there.

Listservs or email groups like Yahoo! Groups are another form of social media. I’m on the Kindlekorner Yahoo group. It’s been an invaluable source of information about self-publishing, as well as a great place to find free books. Again, I tend to lurk; I can only be active in so many social media channels. But I’ve spent enough time with that group to recognize many of the regulars. Some I like and respect. Some I don’t. Just like interactions in the face-to-face world, social networks bring you in contact with a diverse community. The trick is to sort out those you most want to build relationships with from those better left at arm’s length.

Don’t forget about LiveJournal. LJ combines blogging and social media, so that it’s more personal than, say, WordPress, which is a more traditional blog platform, as is Blogger. LiveJournal is mostly consumer-based, so you’ll find lots of special-interest communities as well as individuals. If you want to connect with a group of people focusing on, for example, dogs, LiveJournal can be more effective and focused than Facebook or Twitter.

My husband loves to play chess. Chess.com is the site he uses to find and play matches with people from around the world. There are lots of social media elements to the site, so even my husband (who insists he doesn’t do the “social media” thing) is active in social media. But don’t tell him, okay?

Given the multitude of options available, it is essential that you identify your purpose and have a reason and a strategy before diving into social media. If your target market is knitting fanatics, Twitter might not be the best place for you to spend your time. But a knitting group on Yahoo! Groups (I found 6515 when I did a search) might be perfect.

Just remember that social media encompasses so much more than Facebook and Twitter.

Liked that? There’s more in the book. Comment and let me know what you liked.

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