I know many people (mostly those in the business-to-business community) who claim they "tried social networking, but it didn't work". Or, they observed Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn and other similar platforms and "didn't see the value". My suspicion is that because many of these tools look like toys what they really mean is: I don't have time for that (because it looks like play). Often, their reasons have less to do with a noble work ethic and more to do with the fact that networking, in all its grime and glory, really looks like work (offline or online) - because it is, actually, hard work.
I just received an email from a friend of mine who landed a client ($80,000+ and growing) because of the way he utilized both LinkedIn and Facebook to cultivate a relationship from suspect to prospect to customer to client. His story was filled with action words: finding, calling, researching, investigating, connecting. In short: he was working his social network.
Most people who "tried" social networking weren't social networking, they were social netbeing (a static state of existence in the ether of the internet). They threw up a shingle on LinkedIn or a facebook (fan page) or they tossed up a profile on Twitter and announced they were in business - and the world yawned. In reality, what they did was no more than buy a yellow page ad. They didn't spend any time cultivating community utilizing these tools, they just decided to exist and their results were about what you would expect for someone who just decided to exist.
2009 marked the year where social networking soared and 2010, with its vast potential for mobile computing and personal search, is going to absolutely rock. Yes, the landscape is quite cluttered online but if I had to make one prediction for 2010, it is that search is going to get seriously local. Local businesses, small businesses in particular, are going to see better times ahead, particularly those in niche markets. Though it will be easy to market to anyone, worldwide, at anytime day or night, it might be more profitable to cultivate closer to home because the tools that brought you into contact with the great wide world are now bringing you into contact with your neighbor.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once stated that "a good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." My advice: today's toys are tomorrow's tools so start "playing" now! Yes, it really is a lot of hard work to cultivate a network, but like most worth while endeavors it will eventually yield fruit.
There are other minds much sharper than mine who have weighed in on this, for more on how-to and where-to:
- Do you network "on purpose"? from Patrick Allmond
- Amazon is a Social Network from David Meerman Scott
- 7 ways to use LinkedIn as a real social networking tool via communications conversations
- LinkedIn training tip - new feature for sales people - see who you know someone "through" by Patrick O'Malley
- Social media marketing explained in 61 words by David Meerman Scott
- Using Social Media Strategically (Transitioning beyond trial) from eMarketer