The room was friendly, and buzzing with cheerful faces and enthusiastic conversation. I was immediately intrigued by the atmosphere and decided to sign in and check it out.
After a couple of visits, I joined BNI.
On the recommendation of my friend in New York, I found a local Business Network International chapter (Capital Connectors in Bee Cave, TX) that had an opening in the “Writing Services” category. I made an appointment to visit one Thursday morning, got dressed (a somewhat unusual practice, unless you count workout gear), brought my computer and some work (just in case I peeked in and changed my mind about attending), and showed up at Mimi’s at the designated time. Not sure what to expect, I headed in.
Being a social networker online is similar and different from face-to-face networking in a few ways, and I’m discovering some gaps I could be closing better as I network online. I’m in training. BNI suggests attending short classes that promise two highly interdependent outcomes — how to get the most out of the group, and how to be a valuable part of other’s networks. The BNI philosophy is summed up in the slogan “Givers gain.”
As a producer of content and copy for small businesses, writing for numerous blogs, social sites, and ads, I’m not surprised to see the similarities between success in live networking environments and those online. When you hear the phrase “social networking,” you really don’t have to look much further than a physical BNI meeting to get the basics for success.
How to implement the BNI “Givers Gain” philosophy in social media networking
1. Share others’ articles, books, or information. It’s so easy to do, and the benefits are many.
- Shows you’re a fan.
- Complements the originator of the content.
- May make the other notice you as an influencer within their network.
- Boosts the other’s status when you share, both in web traffic and “clout.”
- Benefits your own network with content that serves them.
- Shows your network you’re not just in it for yourself.
2. Help drive traffic to other’s events and products.
- Become one of their affiliates or refer them just because you like them.
- Make sure you believe in the business or you’ll get a reputation for being unreliable and sleazy. (The “know, like, and trust” factor is often lacking in affiliate marketing)
- Give a shout-out about an upcoming webinar or book launch even if you haven’t attended or read it yet. Based on past experience with the company, you’re trust in them shows goodwill.
3. Mention their charities and other sidelines when they need help getting the word out. A lot of people in your network have a bigger mission. Many of them want to make a better world in some fashion. Spreading the word about their community work or charity work is often more meaningful than referring business to them, and it’s a highly valued way to give and expand the reach of others’ best work.
4. Refer business directly when you’re happy with someone’s work. When someone delivers a great product or gives over-the-top service, say so! Go to their Yelp page or Facebook page and write a glowing review. Give them 5 stars. Post a link to their business from your page or blog if you’re really happy with their work. Leave a review on Amazon if they’ve written a book. Testimonials are the golden currency online, as in person.
5. Thank others when they refer, share, or link to your websites. “Thank you” is such a simple word, yet it goes so far in making people feel like a million bucks. say thank you often and…really feel gratitude when you say it.
When you see networking as a symbiotic relationship with others, all parties win.
- You, the giver, because you add value to the receiver’s network in the form of new business and likability.
- The person or business you are referring.
- Your network, because your show your willingness to offer help through others who can serve them.
- The person who will ultimately benefit from your referral, the consumer
Pretty basic, isn’t it? The main thing I’m learning is that you can’t do it alone. Being social is about give and take. Asking and sharing; delivering and receiving. In fact “Ask” is one of my Words of 2014. (The other one is “Breathe.”) The social part of social media will take you far and fast, and there’s no better way to learn how to be genuinely social than to get dressed and get out there.
If you’re like me, and you spend many hours behind your computer, writing, blogging, editing, creating digital content, or just goofing off, you can probably add value in ways you never thought possible just by going face-to-face and meeting some real people at least one day each week. I’m finding my new BNI network to add purpose and meaning to the way I socialize and network on digital channels.
Sharing more “real live” networking tips for online marketers on Facebook. Want to join me over there? Let’s do…