There is no reason Social Networking (Media) can't be both "Social" and "Networking."
It is funny, we have used several different forms of Social Networking over the years including LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, and Facebook and several others. Early on as with most people, we put up our profiles and then we added some contacts, fans, and followers. We then requested a few testimonials from our clients and friends. Then like most of you we sat on these accounts and once and a while would tweet or post what we were doing or answer a question if we found something that pertained to our industry or expertise.
Realistically though, all we did was sit back and watch what was happening. The funny thing is nothing much happened. When I talk to others about Twitter or Facebook they usually joke that this is just for kids or why would I want to tell someone when I go to the bathroom or when I'm going out to eat? Obviously they are correct, no one wants to hear about your restroom antics.
So how… DO WE USE, this social networking stuff?
Ok, imagine you go out to a party or networking event. You put on your nice outfit, you drive to the event, heck maybe you even go inside to get a name tag and then you go back out and sit in your car for the next hour. This is the same thing most people do in social media, they just do not participate or engage with others. Just because you made an attempt and kind of showed up does not mean that you were "networking."
Now, we know this sounds crazy, but it is the same thing so many people do in the social networking realm, they just sit in their car and watch. Wondering when they are going to get a ton of business. As you are probably guessing, just because you have a LinkedIn account does not mean people are going to beat down the doors and throw cash at you.
The thing is… in order to make social networking work, you have to become "social" & "network." Isn't that odd the name gives you all the instructions you need. Anyhow, what does this really mean? Well start building relationships as you would at your first networking event for a new organization. Go up to people that look interesting and start a conversation. See if there is a good fit and then connect, follow or become a fan of their business first. A lot of times they will return the favor. Instead of working a room, you need to work the social media network. Do a search on Twitter and find people that are in the type of industries you target, then follow them and join the conversation. Start answering questions on LinkedIn to set yourself up as a professional expert or "thought leader" within your industry. Join some groups on LinkedIn and start interacting with the people in the groups through "Discussions". Notice how it is actually very similar to face-to-face networking. Make sure you are not just doing self-promotion or using spam like tactics to only talk about yourself. Provide helpful tips or professional advice, Retweet or promote an industry expert's articles. Understand you have to give in order to get.
Social networking tools are just that… TOOLS. There is no silver bullet to any marketing efforts in order to generate crazy amounts of leads. It does not matter which tool you use, direct mail, social media, trade shows your web site, they all need a focused strategy that defines the goals and objectives you are trying to accomplish. Then you need to know your target market and how you solve their problems. From here, just go out and network like crazy and implement these strategies by using all these tools.
When this is the plan of attack used, social networking will become less of a time waster or just fun and start to become a strong tool in your marketing tool belt.
Get out there and start building relationships.