Put differently, Twitter is for networking*.
This might prompt you to respond, "Tell me something I haven't already heard." You might even say, "Oh, and please spare me the buzz by actually explaining how I can use Twitter to network. I've heard this everywhere. But never, it seems, does anyone back up the claim with an explanation or how-to. Please explain! I need a how-to!"
I used to be this way. Can you believe it? Yes, I was just like you. Twitter seemed inane, something I begrudgingly paid attention to only because something deep down inside told me if I didn't, I'd be in deep trouble.
But I've since figured out something fundamental to Twitter and all of social media: Social media complements brick-and-mortar relationships and the brick-and-mortar events that give rise to them. And, occasionally, social media can be the starting point of a relationship. In fact, the process is anything but linear; the two scenarios coexist. Feeding off each other as circumstances evolve, they ebb and flow continually, and either can be the starting point from which the other stems. Let me explain.
If you're reading this, you may be an entrepreneur of sorts, perhaps even self-employed. That's great. So am I, and as a self-employed person, I urge you to fill your schedule with a slew of brick-and-mortar events. Attend at least two per week. I prefer learning-style events to simple mixers, but that's just me. I just find that learning events tend to provide a more intuitive entrée to thoughtful conversation.
Whatever your event of choice, resist the temptation to stay at home or at the office (or at both, if they happen to be one and the same). Whatever you do, refrain from remaining in front of the computer all day long, catering to clients' every whim. Yes, clients are your most important asset, but don't let them keep you from the all-important activities that bring in new business. You're like a shark, which needs to keep moving to breathe. Breathing is important, and to breathe in business, you need to keep moving.
Press the flesh. If only for the networking opportunities, these occasions are the very building blocks of business-building. Ideas will come to you as you shake the hands of and listen to speakers at the top of their game share the inner workings of that game of theirs. You'll return to your clients energized and full of inspiration. Isn't that what any client worth having wants?
And while you're at those events, don't forget to use Twitter to network.
OK, here comes that how-to part of all this. ...
Earlier this month, I attended LaunchCamp at Microsoft's fittingly named NERD Center in Cambridge, Mass. A highly interactive event of the highest order, LaunchCamp explored the landscape of new online tools and their utility to burgeoning start-ups.
Did I shake as many hands as I could? Of course I did. But pressing the flesh is different nowadays. Sure, shaking hands in person will always make an impression, and I did plenty of that; we'll always do plenty of that. But social media enabled me to press the flesh online, too, and by doing so, I was able to accentuate every subsequent in-person hand-shaking moment.
Most forward-thinking events have a Twitter hashtag, a series of letters preceded by the pound sign (#). For LaunchCamp, the hashtag was #LaunchCamp. By including this hashtag with every one of my tweets pertaining to the day's activity, I was able to make my thoughts easily viewable to all in attendance, and by searching this same hashtag, I was able to follow all other attendees' event-related tweets, as well.
How did I make these capabilities work for me? I joined the many others in attendance who tweeted on the many ideas that speakers were presenting. A parallel, online conversation developed that was nearly as compelling as the brick-and-mortar's. As a fellow attendee, I was able to establish my own modest level of thought leadership among attendees. Others did so, as well, and people replied to me and others.
In between sessions, we all shook hands and established the foundations for post-event discussions on collaboration and…wait for it…new business.
So, Twitter is for networking. But don't just jump into Twitter without a plan. Even if the plan is as simple as making sure to tweet during an event you're attending and remembering to include the event's hashtag with every tweet, you'll be harnessing the power of social media as a people relations tool.*By the way, I have Ari Herzog (@ariherzog) to thank for alerting me to the term "people relations," which blogger David Mullen (@dmullen) coined a couple years ago. At a recent Social Media Breakfast New Hampshire (#smbnh), Ari and I had a chance to chat, observing that public relations is really people relations, and that social media is a facilitator of it. There's more to this, actually, which I plan to cover in upcoming posts. For instance, business networking is probably the simplest form of public relations -- I mean, people relations. Stay tuned.