We were all newbies once. If you're still not sure that social networking is right for you - just know - that I was like you. I'm here to tell you the water is fine... come on in.
I am a principal in a communications firm. My partner, Dan Krystallis, and I both work with existing clients and market to new ones to constantly diversify and grow our business. My brief but intense participation in social networks and media has already brought me new contacts and new opportunities.
I first started using LinkedIn in 2007. For those of you unfamiliar with LinkedIn (though I think that's a real minority), LinkedIn allows you to place your professional story on-line and then start searching for people who you can include in your network.
LinkedIn makes it quite easy to load your email contacts and find who also has a LinkedIn profile.
When I first started out, I wanted people in my network who I actually knew pretty well. These people were my past colleagues, vendors, and past clients; people who could vouch for me.
The value of your network is to find out who are the people in your networks' network.
It's like that Kevin Bacon game. Through Kevin Bacon every single actor is 1 or 2 degrees away from him because he's been in so many films. The larger your network, the better the chance that that Director of PR from Johnson & Johnson is somehow related to you.
If you've been working in the professional world for a while there are a whole bunch of people that you've lost touch with. They are still out there. Some of them are doing well. Very well.
When I was with AT&T in the mid-nineties, we teamed with a revolving door of top notch marketing, events and communications people.
LinkedIn gives you a great reason to find people from your past. Simply wanting to get back in touch is a great excuse to connect with people from your past.
I remembered a creative director by looking at a decade old address book of mine. There he was in LinkedIn.
He remembered me (in a positive way!) and I asked if I could say a brief hello at the new firm he had been working for the last year. A short meeting with him led to two more contacts and meetings at his company.
I haven't received a contract from this company. But they know the caliber of my work, and I believe they will call (if I remind them every now and then) when the right opportunity presents itself. (BTW, from my experience, on average, it takes a year - from the initial meeting - to land a new job from a cold call or referral that I engineered).
In August of this year, I wrote an email to 5 LinkedIn network contacts that I haven't see in over a decade and in some cases two decades. In the letter I asked them for one referral. Just one.
Three of the five blew me off. But the other two gave me names that I followed up with and held a face to face meeting to show my work. Again, no job yet. But seed planting is what having a business is all about.
This morning, a person in my network said hello (via LinkedIn's built in email system) wished me a happy holiday and sounded very interested in the idea of partnering next year. Why today?
Here's what I think: she must have seen a status update that I had just typed - it caught her eye - and it set off a series of good recollections of the last time we worked together.
I try to make my status updates on LinkedIn really particular: "Christopher is pre-interviewing Grad Students for a Higher Ed video." I figure if prospective clients see my status and know I'm working hard at something - they will feel comfortable working with me knowing that I'm "in the game" delivering value for clients like themselves every day.
A couple additional thoughts:
I don't share my entire client base on LinkedIn. There is a lot of competition in my industry and I don't want that competition looking at whom I work for and then swooping in. That's not very open-social-networky of me. But it's a policy that makes me sleep better.
I've made my LinkedIn profile available (It functions as an "About" page) for readers of this blog on the top menu.
I joined Facebook two months ago. Boy, was I late to the party. So many folks from High School and College days were there and interested in getting back and touch and "friending" me.
Now for some people getting back in touch with past folks from when they were 14 - 22 is the last thing they want to do.
But for me, some of the most interesting and intelligent people that I have known through the years happened to go to my high school and college.
Their status updates are witty and always worth reading. The adventures they are having in their professional lives are worth knowing about.
I've even connected with my old Geometry teacher.
With each new "friend" I usually have an email or two conversation with them or IM to update them on what I've been doing in terms of family and work.
These friends are now like "agents". As they go about their daily lives and if they happen to run across a video communication need, I am on the tip of their brain because they've been reading my status updates (sometimes funny - sometimes work related - sometimes family related). Also, all my blog posts are on my "wall" for any and all to see.
Here's what has happened since I joined Facebook.
Remember that Geometry teacher I told you about. He left teaching and is now the Chief Sustainability officer for a wonderful non-profit organization in NYC. We've been discussing ways to use social networks and web video marketing for E-philanthropy, to find new employees and to foster better internal communications. I've just been asked to be on one of his organization's advisory boards in the coming year.
I started Blogging. With Facebook's ease of billboarding what is important in my friend's lives, I was able to check out blogs written by my FB friends. Every post is given an automatic status update (Typepad has an app that makes this happen) and it was just so easy to click and read what was on my friends' mind.
Seeing that my FB friends could be my first initial audience, I was ready to start writing.
There are a lot of blogs out there. Do we really need one more. If what you have to say is interesting then yes we do need one more.
Don't know how to start? I started by reading other people's blogs. For me it was Adam Singer's blog The Future Buzz. It really inspired me. He's got a great voice.
You'll find that that good blogs offer great information or great story telling.
My blog tries to be helpful to people who work in PR, Marketing and Communications but I also want it to be of interest to the person who "Stumbles upon" it.
It's a bit of a treadmill. I don't write every day. But I do think about what to write about every day.
In terms of a marketing perspective, it has been really fun to try to get people to read the blog.
So far I've found the best way to get readers is to get write dynamic material that people can use or that touches a nerve. Of the ten posts I've written the one word headline "Optimism" struck a chord and I went from 25 readers to 295 overnight. How did it happen? One word. Twitter.
I attempted to join Twitter three times. But I didn't get it. Who was around to twitter? Who had the time to tweet?
It was only after I started my blog that twittering made sense to me.
Because my blog touches on the confluence of Social Networking and Video, it has the chance to appreciated by a large audience.
That audience is on Twitter.
After every post I try to think up a headline (a real grabber) of what my post is about to entice some followers to read it. With the Optimism post, I wrote this on Twitter: "Optimism. It's out there. Somewhere. Share it." I posted the URL of the post along side it.
Those seven words hooked in some influential twitter folks who have combined over 12,000 followers.
My tweet was re-tweeted and broadcasted out to those 12,000 people. It was a taste of that vaunted quality called "Viral" and I have to say it was fun to see it happen.
However, all my tweets can't be about me and my blog postings. That will get tired really quick.
My tweets tend to ask questions of individual people I follow. I also like to broadcast a particular person that I'm meeting that day to let others know about him or her.
I don't have a lot of followers, but the ones I do have I received by putting my twitter address at the end of comments on other people's blogs. Also the more you Tweet, the more you start to converse and say something that adds value that others will notice. And their followers will want to start following you.
You can follow me by going to www.twitter.com/chrismingryan
Hope to see you online...