Tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have given "networking" a whole new meaning. And, for sales professionals, it can be about more than just reconnecting with old flames and friends. Salespeople have been using parties to develop business relationships for generations. And online networking services can do the same thing. Use them as a powerful tool to gain information about your prospects and competitors.
There are a lot of people using science to analyze what works best on these sites, but I thought I'd post something a bit more basic...here's a quick run-down of what's “socially-appropriate" on each site.
Facebook: A Backyard Barbecue
Facebook is like a backyard barbecue. It’s informal. You might invite a couple of coworkers, maybe a few friends from your neighborhood, and a handful of others. There's an argument to be made that you shouldn't invite your prospects, but I think that depends on the nature of your relationship with each prospect. In either case, Facebook offers an opportunity to relax and reconnect. Your first priority on Facebook shouldn't be building business. It should be building relationships. As a result, a subtle approach is best. Don't overtly ask for business. Instead, just share your interests. Make sure your friends know what you do.
LinkedIn: A Networking Breakfast
In many ways, LinkedIn is the anti-Facebook. It reminds me of leads groups that host networking breakfasts. In other words, people on LinkedIn expect to exchange virtual business cards (the good news is that you aren’t tempted by Cheese Danish). It’s ordinary to discuss professional opportunities. Understand that, on LinkedIn, people will try to sell you things. You can – and should – do the same. But don't forget to engage in a quality exchange of valuable ideas inside discussion forums. Sales opportunities are commonplace and expected. LinkedIn is a place for you to develop your professional reputation as a valuable resource. Use it to its full extent.
Twitter: A Cocktail Party
The biggest hurdle facing Twitter is its stupid name and challenging vocabulary. Once you've gotten past that, think of it as a cocktail party where everyone’s invited and just about any topic is fair game, “you won’t believe what I read in the paper the other day…” But, like your grandmother said, religion and politics are probably best left to others. Anyway, it’s important to keep the conversation flowing. Discuss relevant content. Tweets, like good cocktail conversation, should be polite and others-focused. Bring value, stay positive, and be consistent. Use it to present yourself as a valuable resource. Make introductions, bring valuable links, and share good news.
So, by knowing what's appropriate in each venue, you're more likely to harness them appropriately to achieve sales success. I would welcome the chance to talk about these ideas in more depth. Looking forward to your comments.