Do you have more than 100 friends on Facebook? What about 200? 300? 1,000?
Well, let me tell you something: They’re not your friends. Not all of them, anyway. Here’s a test: Post a note to your 1,000 friends and ask them to help you move. Those who respond and offer to help – now they’re your friends! These are some of the sentiments of Jimmy Kimmel, who declared Nov. 17 National Unfriend Day.
And I don’t disagree. I’m probably one of the few people on earth who has absolutely no patience for Facebook. Do I think it’s a valuable tool that helps people meet and stay in touch? Yes, of course. Is it interesting, fun, and even addicting at times? No doubt. But I don’t need to know who’s eating mashed potatoes, what you’re doing with your cat, or what my buddy from high school is thinking every 14 minutes. One of my Facebook friends (a true friend, by the way) is a trainer at a gym, and actually posts every single day when he’s on the way to the gym . (Unfriend.)
Now, I understand that Facebook was originally designed for social reasons, and that such tools as LinkedIn and Twitter may be better applications for businesses. But do all of your friends, connections, and followers truly belong there? How often does someone contact you out of the blue on a social media platform and you have no idea who they are?
OK – now for some valuable perspective. Online networking time is not the same as meeting someone face to face. There’s a much different protocol, and it takes longer to establish a good relationship online. In fact, I tell advisors that online networking is only a small part of actual networking. Sometimes, connecting with others online for business purposes can mark the beginning of a valuable relationship, but most of the time, it can be intrusive, meaningless, or even an annoyance.
This is especially true within the financial services industry. Compliance departments and the industry’s governing bodies haven’t even figured out how social media fits into their world as a marketing tool. One of my clients, a major life insurance company, doesn’t even allow its financial advisors to use social media for business purposes. At a meeting at which I spoke, this company actually told advisors outright that if they used such tools as LinkedIn, that they would be immediately fired, with no questions asked. (I would mention the company, but don’t want them to unfriend me.)
Anyway, here are some quick and easy tips on how to best utilize social media as an advisor, agent, rep, or broker.
Have an awesome profile
You want your profile to be well-written and contain enough keywords to position you as an expert. Such online communities as LinkedIn are particularly friendly to Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. This means that if someone were to conduct a search using your name, you and your website should appear high in the rankings (depending on your name).
Pick a few areas of interest that you want to be known for
Long term care, annuities, financial planning, retirement, special needs, and insurance are great examples. Don’t try to be known as an expert in all of these areas, even if you are. Focus on just one or two so you can brand yourself as having a specialty. Now, your postings can focus on helping others in those areas, and you’ll attract those who are truly interested. Hey, they may even go to your website and contact you directly for advice, or even to hire you.
This is one of the reasons it’s important to have a target market – those you serve best and therefore wish to serve most. You can join online groups for free and communicate with others who have a common interest and a need for your products and services. For example, if your niche is the physician marketplace, you can join related groups and offer advice and respond to questions that benefit that market. That’s a great way to earn credibility, visibility, and increased online traffic.
Be a connector
Look to connect those in your network and your online groups to important contacts who can benefit them. Don’t connect people for the sake of it; be thoughtful about your connections. It’s best if you communicate with each party before you do this so that you can ensure a mutual benefit. When you connect great people, they connect you with great people. Isn’t that great?
Make sure that what you post and how you communicate online is value-based rather than promotional. Your posts shouldn’t be overtly self-serving. If you develop an online reputation for being blatantly promotional, the word will get around fast.
Have high standards for accepting friends and connections into your online world. Your friends are often a direct reflection of you. Just ask Jimmy Kimmel.
If you read an article that can help your network and online groups, send or post a link to the article. It leaves a much more positive impression if the article is written by someone other than you. Your prospects will always appreciate valuable resources that you can offer – and this is one of the best ways to be viewed as a valuable resource.
If you think that these approaches would also be valuable in face-to-face networking (at association meetings, chamber mixers, networking groups, client-recognition events), you would be right. You just need to be extra careful, because you often don’t have the personal connection, interaction, and chemistry online that you have in person. Of course, personal introductions and referrals will have a tremendous effect all around.
And absolutely check with the operations and compliance department within your agency or firm before you approach social media and online networking as part of your marketing campaign.
Nov. 17 is coming soon! Use National Unfriend Day to cleanse your databases and take a refreshed and renewed approach to networking. Take it from me – as a friend.
Michael Goldberg is a speaker, author, consultant and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting.For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free online newsletter and blog The Building Blocks to Success please visit www.NetworkingForProducers.com or www.TheBuildingBlockstoSuccess.com.