You barely walk into a business networking event and you are greeted at the door by Eddie. Eddie immediately hands you one of his business cards and asks for one of yours. As you are looking beyond Eddie to get a feel for the event, you are fumbling in your pocket for a card. Eddie begins telling you how long he has come to these events, where his office is located and how he can make you wealthy. You pat him on the shoulder as you tell him you can't find a business card and now wonder if this whole event was a bad idea.
As you go to grab something to drink Erin approaches. She asks if this is your first time at this event. You tell her yes and that you really never like these type of meetings but really wanted to hear the featured speaker. She laughs and agrees with you, asking if you got caught by the door shark. She tells you she has heard this speaker before and the main point she learned that brought her back to hear her again. Erin then asks if you are from this area and a few other questions that reveal the two of you have a lot in common. You become curious about what she does and she she shares a little about the business she owns and some the clients she works with to help save them time and increase their bottom line, but then she asks you more questions. You end up asking her for a business card before you sit down.
Now take these two scenarios and play them out online. We see the same characters on social media sites. There are social sharks or those that just connect for the sake of making money from you and there are social networkers, out to connect, share helpful information and build relationships.
Let's take a few cues from Erin and explore 4 tips that build trust online.
Take time to get to know people.
How often do you just click that FOLLOW button on Twitter or accept a LinkedIn invitation before reading the person's bio? Read (or at least scan) their bio looking for something that you might have in common or that you find interesting enough to comment on in a welcome message.
Ask more questions.
If all you do is pump out content about yourself, your events, your products and you infinite wisdom, you might be sounding a bit like Eddie. Ask questions to allow others to show their expertise occasionally. “Who uses a tool to organize their contacts?” “What is your favorite photo editing program?” You will be able to strike up conversations and begin those relationships with people faster than when you talk about yourself all day.
If you are listening to your online community, you are hearing them ask questions or talk about challenges they are having, trips they are taking, or other life events they are experiencing. In the “Old Days” sales people would scan the daily newspaper and clip articles that their clients or prospective clients might find helpful. These are not coupons or promo codes for your products, but articles that they would find helpful. Today we have tools like Flipboard and Zite that we can scan each day and send someone an interesting article via email or even to their social channel inbox.
Have fun and show your personality!
People like people that are like themselves. Do you have a dry sense of humor? Do you see the world through a sarcastic lens (maybe that's just my lens!)? Be sure to sprinkle your posts, tweets, and even photos with things that show that side of yourself so others will connect with that. Loosen up that tie or neck scarf and make sure you connect with others at virtual happy hour! I love being on Twitter in the evenings because you do see a more fun side of people sharing funny insights of their day or a show they are watching on television. Perhaps you tweet out a deep thought, pondering one of life's mysteries like why you always crave ice-cream when watching Biggest Loser. You would be surprised how many people have those same cravings and the relationships that can be established around that twisted, guilty pleasure!
Don't get so caught up in “collecting” followers, friends, or business cards online, that you miss the opportunity to actually connect and build relationships that will lead to wonderful partnerships, business opportunities and even friendships.
I'd love to hear your stories or tips on this subject! Be sure to connect with me on Twitter, Google +, Facebook or any other virtual networking event you are attending…I'm probably there standing next to the coffee bar making fun of all the door sharks!