Like dropping a stone into a calm pond, building your social network starts ripples that will pay off in ways you cannot even imagine. When I talk about networking for business, I mention the analogy of planting seeds. The harvest doesn’t come instantly, but when it does, it usually turns out to be well worth the wait. A ripple spreading out across a pond takes time to travel, too. It may collide with other ripples, started by other stones — yours or someone else’s. Our social media activities are small gestures, just 140 characters, or a short status on Facebook, maybe even a brief comment on a blog. This is far less work than traditional business networking activities. You can achieve more with less effort.
Here’s a perfect example of how using Twitter and other social media tools pays off. In reading the book Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or ReInvent Yourself, I was confused by a paragraph on blog templates. I tweeted my question to the authors via their Twitter contact info provided in the book. Within moments, I received an answer to my question, which generated a follow-up exchange.
Traditional businesses in the offline world, or “bricks and mortar” companies, had the same needs as anyone doing business online today: getting the word out about their products and services. Way back when, pre-1992 and the Web, we used personal networking as a powerful channel to tell other people about our businesses and get referrals. We joined the Rotary Club, hoping for the chance to be a guest speaker and have the opportunity to talk about our business. We joined the local Chamber of Commerce and charitable organizations; we served on committees, meeting people who could, it was hoped, refer clients to us, especially after they got to know us and knew of our integrity and business smarts.