Social Networking – Are You Afraid Your Connections Will Steal Your Customers

Do You Need to Fear Your Connections Stealing Your Customers?

There are a lot of networking wannabees that are worried about competitors stealing their customers. They allow this fear to keep them from inviting or accepting connections and friends. Their belief is that by not inviting or not accepting they will prevent competitors from stealing their customers.

I understand what they are saying and where they are coming from; but is this really a legitimate concern or are they doing more harm to themselves than good? The reality is that being a networking wannabee with a few connections makes you more susceptible than if you had a large number of connections.

This may sound ridiculous, but let me explain. Whether you are on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other Social Network, as far as I know, your connections do not have the ability to directly or indirectly search or sort your connections. This means that someone wanting to search your connections or friends list must go through your connections one-by-one looking for possible customers.

A Large Network Makes Searching Time Consuming and Virtually Impossible

If you have just a few connections, this would be an easy task; if you have a large number of connections this would be a very labor intensive process. To me, this says that the larger your network the more protected you are.

Currently I have over 800 connections on LinkedIn, for someone to identify one of my customers would be a lot of work and I do not know anyone that would have the time to undertake that effort. I doubt that your connections would have the necessary time or inclination to undertake that type of task either. A large network can should include Network White Noise.

Creating Network White Noise

What is Network White Noise? This is a new term that I have coined and is the process of building lots of people into your network individuals that may or may not have an immediate networking value. Some of the people that you can add to create Network White Noise include family members, friends, former classmates, former teachers and professors, and others without a current business connection.

I call these connections Network White Noise because if someone is searching through your connections or friends list; these individuals will not have the value the searcher desires. Adding these people is one of the best things you can do to rapidly add Network White Noise to your network and therefore hide your clients and customers.

One of the best ways to continue your networking efforts, while still protecting the identify of your clients and customers is to create Network White Noise. Are you inviting friends, family, former teachers and professors, and other non-business related connections? If not, then why not start now?

I Am Shocked When Business Owners Ignore Social Media

I Am Amazed

I am amazed; I am shocked every time someone tells me that they want their business to be on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other Social Media and then end with the comment saying they do not want to have that presence tied to them. All I can say is: What?

How can you be in Social Media where it is all about conversations, not dialogue, and not expect to be involved? Web 2.0 applications, which is what Social Networking or Social Media applications are, is all about conversations. That is why these applications were developed.

Anyone Making This Statement Does Not Realize That Social Networking Is About Conversations

Social Media is about conversations with your friends, customers, prospects, and others. If it is not you conversing with them; then who do you want doing the talking? Have you designated someone to talk on your behalf? Are you prepared to entrust these communications to someone else?

If this is a large organization, where the operations are no longer tied to an individual, it may make sense. But if you are a small or medium sized business, a professional, a consultant, or an entrepreneur; you probably do not have someone that you have trained and entrusted to talk for you.

Social Networking Is About the Conversations

The purpose of these communications is to build credibility, reliability, and trust; how can you do that and simultaneously remain anonymous? Are you afraid that a customer or prospect will say something you do not like? If that is the case you need to wake up, because they are saying those things regardless. At least with Social Media you have a chance to hear what is being said and respond.

Business Owners and Managers Cannot Ignore Social Media

Today’s world does not allow you to hide! Your business can be and actually is a target and thinking that by not being involved in Social Media will somehow protect or shield you is a mistake. Things are being said with or without your participation. Social Media has become the outlet for favorable and unfavorable discussions.

It used to be that the dissatisfied customer would tell six friends; today that number increases geometrically. The average person on Facebook has 130 friends. If they post something about you, favorable or unfavorable, on average 130 people will see or hear the message.

There is a YouTube video out about United Airlines breaking this guys guitar. Over 3 Million, yes that is an “M” people have seen this video. Last I knew it was even becoming a record.

You are now a member of the viral world so stop being an ostrich and get your head out of the sand. You need to be participating!

Do Not Go Outside the Box Too Quickly

Maybe Thinking Out of the Box Is All Wrong

We hear frequently about the idea of thinking outside the box and I’ve come to realize that maybe outside the box is not the correct term. Think of yourself as a picture. As with any picture you have a foreground object(s) and then the background. Look at the foreground object as your current job and the background as your skills that put you in that position.

Even if the foreground becomes fuzzy or fades; the background still exists.

Do You Define Yourself by YOUR Job, or Are You Defined by YOUR Skills

When your job becomes obsolete; does that mean that you become obsolete as well? If we are focused on the foreground that is an easy conclusion for YOU to reach. But if you look at the background as your skills, abilities, and talents that put you into the job you will see that you have many things working in your favor to continue moving you forward that are not obsolete.

The Assault on the Job Market

Over the past two decades we have seen the US Job Market assaulted by jobs moving off-shore, automation, business closings, and the recession to name some of the culprits. As a result the US has experienced tremendous job loss; some of which are gone forever. The workers that occupied the jobs that no longer must adjust. They cannot live on the hope that those jobs may return, because in the majority of cases they will not.

The job market is also being assaulted by the changes from employees to contractors or consultants. More and more employers are recognizing the need for flexibility in the workforce and one of the best ways to facilitate flexibility is with a temporary workforce. As such workers must be prepared to adapt again.

The change to a temporary workforce places increased pressures on the workers to continually be upgrading their skills and abilities to meet the demands of their prospective employers. Even while they are on assignment these workers must constantly be looking to the future anticipating the new skills that will be required when the assignment ends.

Restructure Yourself Based Upon What Made You What You Were; Not For What You Were

A few years ago Marshall Goldsmith wrote his book “What Got You Here; Won’t Get You There”. It was a book about advancement within an organization and the fact that the skills that caused your success in one position are not the same skills that will enable you to succeed in the next.

Today, the same can be said as you progress through your career. The skills that get you to one position may not be the same skills that you will need for your next opportunity. You cannot bank on your next employer needing the exact same set of skills as the last. You must be prepared to re-craft yourself to meet the needs from one opportunity to the next.

Are You Talking To Your Prospects or At Your Prospects?

“You” Is The Word That Is Key To Your Success

The most important word when you are talking to your prospects and customers is “YOU”. I do not mean talking about you; I mean using the word YOU in YOUR communications as it refers to YOUR customers, prospects, or future employers. If your message is not using this word YOU are not connecting on the level YOUR customers/clients/patients and prospects want.

Look at the messages you create; are they process oriented or results oriented? Are they talking about what you can do for your future employers and customers; or do you spend your time talking about how you do it?

Your customers and prospects want to know what you can do for them. In addition to wanting to know what you can do for them; they want to know what you have done for others and therefore what they should expect from you. This is results oriented. This is talking to your customer.

Are You Process or Results Oriented in Your Communications?

If you spend your time talking about how you do things you are talking process and, although that is important, your customers consider it just that: talk. They want to know how THEY will benefit if they work with you and that is what YOU must be communicating.

Whether you are a job seeker, a professional, a sales person, a small business owner, or whatever; you must be able to convey your value based upon the results that you have achieved previously for your former employers and organizations or your former/current customers, clients, and patients.

Are Your Messages Focused On You or Are They Focused on Your Customers or Prospective Employers?

If your messages are not focused on prospective employers and customers/clients/patients the message must be changed. You want to impress those prospects with your stories of accomplishments and results. You want your prospects to be able to take your message and translate into results for them.

When your customer sincerely believes that they are first and foremost on your mind you are building your credibility, your reliability, your trust, and your brand.

Remember that facts tell, but stories sell! What is your story?

Social Networking: What Is Your Purpose?

Why Are You Networking?

You really must answer this question. What is your purpose for networking? If you do not know your purpose; you cannot be effective at networking.

Wannabee Networkers

There are many wannabee networkers. I call them wannabee because the truth is that they do not understand what it means to be a networker. To many being a networker simply means collecting business cards. The problem with that is once they collect the cards they do not know what to do with them.

Without a purpose or understanding of what you are doing; this is understandable. Taking action without a plan or strategy is simply activity without purpose. How would you know what to do? How would you know your next action? This is why understanding your networking purpose is so important. So what are your reasons for networking?

Reasons for Networking

People network for many reasons; what is yours? Here are some examples of why people network:

  • Looking for new business or career opportunities.
  • Searching for customers.
  • Seeking other professionals for collaboration.
  • Finding new friends.
  • Finding a mate.
  • Building a brand.
  • Laying the groundwork for the future.
  • Looking for partners.
  • Searching for investors.
  • To learn about products, services, or companies.
  • To research job candidates, prospective partners, potential investors, etc.
  • To find people with similar interests.
  • Finding traveling companions.
  • Locating hobbyists.
  • For research.
  • This is just a sampling of the reasons people make connections. What is yours?

    After Identifying Your Purpose

    Once you have identified your purpose you can start defining your strategy. Going through this process you may realize that you do not have a single purpose, but there may be several reasons for your networking efforts. This is fine; now, at least, you understand the why of your networking efforts and that is a critical step to your networking process.

    Your Networking Strategy

    Your networking strategy should include:

    1. Who you will invite into your network.
    2. How you will classify your contacts.
    3. How you will maintain contact with your connections.
    4. How frequently you will be connecting with each classification of contact.
    5. What message you will be sending to each classification of contact.
    6. How you will participate with your network.
    7. What you will contribute to your network.
    8. How you will contribute to your network.

    If you want to be serious about your networking you must take your networking seriously. Anything less is a disservice to yourself and your network. Do not engage in networking if your expectation is to sit on the sidelines. Be a contributor to benefit others and yourself.

Wait a Minute; Do You Really Need to Think Outside the Box?

Maybe Thinking Out of the Box Is All Wrong

I just finished reading “The Age of the Unthinkable” by Joshua Ramo and it has made me reflect on this topic.

We hear frequently about the idea of thinking outside the box and I’ve come to realize that maybe outside the box is not the correct term. In the book Ramo uses the example of a picture. Many pictures have a foreground object and then the background. I now look at the foreground object as my current job and the background as my skills that put me in that position.

Your Job May Be Obsolete, But That Does Not Mean That You Are

When a current job disappears, I mean becomes obsolete; if we are focused on the foreground then we have become obsolete as well. But if we look at the background as our skills, abilities, and talents that put us into the job we will see that we have many things working in our favor to continue moving us forward.

Here’s an example; I’m in IT and after 9/11 my projects which were all new infrastructures, just dried up. Although not permanently obsolete it was devastating enough to be a challenge.

I lamented and mourned and went through months of not moving forward. Finally I stepped back and looked at all the things I had done (the background of my picture) and realized that, although I was not an IT security expert, I had over 20 years of IT security experience. I had grown up with IT security from four letter passwords to what it was at the time.

Restructure Yourself Based Upon What Made You What You Were; Not For What You Were

I restructured my resume to focus on this experience and lo and behold I found a job. Everything I needed was in the box, I just had to get past the foreground picture to find it.

We do not need to go off the deep end, we just need to be willing to look beyond the obvious.