Connecting People via Twitter

Connecting People If you’ve ever read this blog, then you know that I love Twitter. I love that it lets me connect Gossett Marketing to people all over the world so that we can learn from one another. I love that, even though we don’t know each other in the real world, I interact with so many people who I consider to be friends. I just really love it! One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is the #FF mention. For those of you who are unfamiliar with micro-blogging, a #FF mention is a tweet that someone sends out to his followers to suggest that they follow you. These messages are typically sent out on Fridays, which is why the alliterative hashtag abbreviation was born.

Not to brag, but our Twitter handle, @marketngtidbits, tends to get a decent number of #FF mentions each week. The vast majority are from our aforementioned Twitter friends, and they often give a reason as to why they think their followers might be interested in following us. For example, last week someone #FF’d us and a couple of other Twitter handles and suggested that people follow all of us for marketing information. Another friend said that his followers should check us out because he thinks we’re engaging. These people use their #FF messages as min introductions, which I think is the best way to handle the hashtag.

Then there are people who send out dozens of #FF mentions for no reason. These tend to be long lists of names – maybe a dozen if space allows – that give absolutely no reason for following the individuals who are included. When I see those lists, even if they’re from a fellow Tweeter who I respect, I almost always ignore them. If you don’t take the time to write down why I should follow them, then, well, why should I follow this huge list of people? If you’re at a networking event and you introduce one associate to another, do you simply state their names and walk away? Probably not – I’ll bet you give a little bit of background, even if it’s just a sentence or two. You should do the same thing on Twitter! You can say even less (literally just a couple of words), and it goes a long way towards making your #FF introductions more meaningful.

Remember, the key to being successful on Twitter is to act like a human. Just because you’re on a computer, your networking should still feel personal. So for #FF mentions or any other interaction, put the “social” back into “social media” networking!

A Good Networking Event?

Networking EventWhat makes a good networking event? I am sure it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s a good combination of people – those I know and don’t know. As well as individuals that are there to meet people – not just sell.

I prefer an event where there are a few people that know me and are willing to make introductions. I find it helps put most people more at ease rather than walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself.

I was at a function recently at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove and was introduced to a woman starting a new company. We discussed many aspects of her company and as I offered her my card I told her not to hesitate to contact me with questions or if she felt I could introduce her to some prospects. Her response was surprising. “Wow, at most events I go to, no one ever offers to help. It seems they just want to sell me their products.”

A good reminder for any networking event – it’s give and take. Not all take. How many times have you been at an event when someone interrupts a group to push their business card into your hand with not even an attempt to understand what it is you do or need. First impressions count. So don’t be remembered that way or not at all because I throw those business cards away

While we are all out there trying to make an impression and market our small or large business, we also need to be willing to listen and understand the needs of the people we meet.

Biz Tip: Be Nice to the Right People

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I’ve said before that being nice is a powerful tool, and I still believe that to this day. But as someone focused on networking and growing my business, more powerful than just being a kind person in general is being nice to the right people. And no, that does not mean that you should suck up to your dream client, but it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to be extra-friendly to his or her assistant.

It’s disappointing to meet someone at a networking event, have a great conversation, follow up with him or her, and then be ignored. In that sort of situation, it would behoove any good networker to do a little digging and find a way to contact their business target’s assistant. And when I say “do a little digging,” I do mean a little – all you’d have to do is call the office’s main number and ask to speak to Mr. So-And-So’s admin. I’ll bet you will get through.

So once you have found this person, what do you do? I’d suggest telling him or her who you are, where you met their boss, and ask them to take a message. Then be sure to lay it on thick with the “thank you’s,” “I appreciate your help soooo much,” and the like. That might be all it takes to let your message float to the top of the pile!

If your efforts to reach out to your business contact via his or her assistant are successful, then continue your targeted niceness! Call the admin back and thank her again for her help. Then, when you actually set your meeting, be super friendly when you meet the assistant in person. Heck, you can even bring her one of your promotional marketing products as a gift – an engraved cell phone charger is always a good touch!

So, as a businessperson it always pays to be nice. And if you happen to be nice to the person who can get you an appointment with a potential new business contact, then you are definitely doing it right!

Show Some Personality when Networking

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Going to networking events, to me, does not feel like a normal, natural thing to do. It’s not in my wheelhouse to want to walk into a roomful of strangers and start chatting with the first person I see. Nor am I so gregarious as to be the person who spots the obvious group of “cool kids” and marches up to them to join their clique. But in order to expand my business I force myself to behave as if I was a born extrovert when I’m in a networking situation.

Forcing myself to behave like someone I’m not seems a little disingenuous, though: like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. So in order to combat that feeling at a networking event, I am also sure to let my personality shine through. But how? Well, if you’ve read this blog then over the years you’ve come to know a bit about me. I love to travel, live for good food, I’m on the goofy side, I attend too many weddings to count, I’m a big Miami sports fan, etc. So much like I do in this format, when I’m at a networking event I think it’s totally OK to talk about those aspects of my life as well as the business side.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk up to the first businessman I see at a chamber of commerce luncheon and immediately tell him about my friends getting married in Amelia Island. But once we’ve exchanged elevator speeches and learned a little bit about each other’s businesses, what’s the harm in asking someone if he likes the fact that the Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton? I actually find that that type of casual, less business-y conversation breaks the ice a lot better than something more professional. It also makes our interaction more memorable, I think, so hopefully when he or I calls or emails to follow up, we will know who the person on the other end of the phone actually is (rather than trying to picture a random person in a suit).

Networking events are unnatural to begin with, but if you let your personality peek through your business persona, they might just feel a little bit more normal. Plus showing your true colors might ultimately increase the amount of business that these meetings bring.

Business Events and Halloween

Trick or Treaters Business events are a lot like Halloween. Now I know this sounds weird. But, when you think about it, how weird is trick-or-treating?! You go to people’s doors and ask for candy while wearing a costume – utterly bizarre! However, it is a little bit like attending a networking function! No, I haven’t lost my mind, hear me out.

OK, OK, unlike trick-or-treaters I know that you don’t wear a costume when you’re at your local chamber of commerce…or do you? When I walk into a business breakfast I slap on a grin that I don’t necessarily always feel like wearing – that’s not to say that I don’t want to be there, I’m just not particularly smiley before my second cup of coffee. I don’t misrepresent myself, I just try to act friendlier than I feel. I enhance myself. That super-outgoing side of me? Not the usual Lillian – it’s my costume!

Sadly, conferences don’t necessarily involve candy, but just like you were looking for sweets as a child on Halloween, as an attendee I know you’re after something – business cards! And when you’ve collected them all day, don’t you get back to your office and sort them, just like you did your candy when you were a kid? There are the Reese’s cups of cards – cards you are thrilled to receive from people you were hoping to meet. Then there are the Mystery Flavor Dum-Dums – cards from people who could turn out to be great contacts, but aren’t sure things. And you always get one or two homemade treats – the cards that you throw away just like you would homemade candy (which my mom always said was full of razor blades). Tell the truth – if you attended an event with a coworker, don’t you compare your haul just like you did as a kid?

Think Halloween at your next networking event. Maybe the trick-or-treating comparison will make it more fun. Or maybe you’ll be as confident as you were when you knocked on strangers’ doors all those years ago. Or, better still, maybe someone will actually have candy!

If you need something to talk about at your next business function, check out this YouTube video of a very patient cat wearing Halloween costumes…that’s an ice breaker for you!

Are you Working Networking Events

Is there a right way to work a networking event? I must admit, sometimes I marvel at how well some people are able to work a room, while others never seem to move.
I was at the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Trustee Reception recently at the newly opened Doctors Hospital Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center on South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. It was a great location for the reception – plenty of open space for all the attendees to mix and mingle.
Of course the bar area was quite the popular spot and when I first approached there was a gentleman just standing to the side observing everyone. He wasn’t engaged at all. I saw others I knew nearby and was immediately intercepted to be introduced to some new members. Probably a half hour later I walked back to the bar area and discovered the gentleman was still standing in the same place, seemingly had not moved an inch, still observing, not speaking with anyone.
I introduced myself to him and we discussed his business a bit and exchanged cards. But I couldn’t help but think – Why was he here? He was just waiting for people to come up to him instead of reaching out and engaging others in conversation. I saw him leave shortly after and thought – was my card the only one he received?
I don’t pretend to have the best or right approach to networking. I do understand how many people are shy or unsure how to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. However, one way that I get over that feeling is to think of myself as the “hostess” of the event. It helps me to get in the right frame of mind to reach out to make everyone feel welcome and for me to introduce myself to those looking lost.
Do you have any networking “tips” to share? Please comment below. dg

Overly-Simple Networking Tip: Have a Good Handshake

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When we were little girls my sister and I attended cotillion at the local country club. I think Helen, my sister, enjoyed it, but it was the bane of my existence. Part of the problem was probably the fact that Helen’s class was always short on girls, so I’d have to dance through my class and then participate in hers too – no fair! We also had to wear gloves, which was probably good because it protected us from the boys’ cooties, but I always felt like a dope wearing them. Long story short, cotillion was not my cup of tea. Although I didn’t like taking cotillion classes, I must say that they did teach me some things. I can box step with the best of them, I know the difference between a foxtrot and a waltz, and I have a good handshake.

I attend a good number of networking events and go to my fair share of meetings, so I shake a lot of hands on a weekly basis. I’m shocked at how many people – men and women alike – are bad at it! Some people give you those awkward, limp-wristed hand holds. Others try to break your bones. Or there’s the old pull-her-shoulder-out-of-the-socket violent hand pumping. And so many people just neglect to make eye contact while shaking hands. Weird.

To go back to cotillion, the very first thing they taught us was how to properly shake hands. You see, to walk into the ballroom to begin our lessons, the boys and girls made single-file lines and walked in as couples, where we were greeted by two parents who served as chaperones. We then shook hands with those grownups and introduced ourselves. If our handshakes were lacking, then they told us how to change them and we did it again. This is where I learned to have a firm (but not too firm) grip, not to be overly aggressive in my motions, and most importantly, to make eye contact. Those rules stuck, and I think I’m a darn good hand shaker to this day!

I might be overly-critical of other people’s handshakes, but they do make an impression. Chances are that you a good hand-shaker too (it certainly isn’t a difficult skill to perfect), but if not, work on it. It really does make a difference at networking events, meetings, and just life in general!

What Not to Do After a Networking Event

I write a lot about networking – heck our blog has a whole category dedicated to it – so I always wonder if our readers think that the Gossett Marketing team is obsessed with building our business network. In a word: yes. Networking takes a lot of our time, effort, and dedication, but we firmly believe that it’s worth the endeavor, as it helps us grown in our community and beyond. If you’re not already a dedicated networker, then it’s time to start so that you can expand your business’s reach (and ultimately its profitability).

Regardless as to whether you’re new to business networking or if it’s old hat to you, I think everyone can brush up on networking etiquette. Last week I discussed what not to do during an event, so this week I’m focusing on what not to do afterwards. Here we go…

1. Nothing – You went to a networking event, met new people, and took their business cards back to work with you. Don’t just leave that contact information on your desk, never to be viewed again; rather, follow up with the people you met! Send a quick e-mail, invite them to connect on LinkedIn, give them a call, or even tweet them. Reinforce the bond you made at the networking event so that you can begin to forge a real relationship.
2. Too Much – On the opposite end of the spectrum from those who do nothing post-event are those who do too much. These are the folks who send an e-mail, then give the recipient a call an hour later just to be sure that they’d gotten it. And who not only connect on LinkedIn but start filling your Twitter feed and continually comment on your blog posts. These people mean well, but it’s overwhelming and, well, feels a bit stalker-ish. Ultimately, this strategy backfires, as the person with whom they are so desperately trying to bond begins to avoid the avid follow-upper!
3. Be a Robot – Now that you know the right amount of follow up, be sure that you’re doing the right kind. Often after networking with someone I, get a form e-mail saying things like “it was nice to meet you at the recent Chamber of Commerce event.” What event? What did we talk about? Do I really want to build a relationship with someone who can’t take the time to write a personalized e-mail? Absolutely not! But if I get an e-mail saying something like, “it was wonderful to sit with you at lunch yesterday, I enjoyed learning about the promotional products industry…” then chances are I will respond to the sender. He has taken the time to absorb our discussion and write me a personal e-mail, which shows me that his networking effort was genuine – I’m happy to consider someone like that a part of my network!

What it all boils down to is that you need to behave like a normal human being both before and after a networking event. I know that sounds strange, but treat others as you’d like to be treated, don’t bother them, but also don’t ignore them, and connect with them. That’s really what it takes to successfully network!

Don’t Forget to Plan Your Event

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Ever since I graduated from college I have been a very frequent wedding guest. Some are here in Miami, but I very often find myself flying to other parts of the country to celebrate my friends’ nuptials. I love that these occasions are a big part of my social calendar, but I must say that they require a good deal of planning, particularly when travel is involved. I have to coordinate schedules, book flights, figure out hotels and transportation, not to mention pick out what to wear (tough life, right?). Fortunately, I always have plenty of advance notice so that I can get it together in a timely manner…except this year. I am attending two weddings during the first half of this year and I have had zero chance to plan for them because neither of my engaged friends will give me any details. One bride has yet to determine the exact date/city for her wedding (meaning that I cannot buy my plane tickets), and while the other has a date and a venue, she can’t seem to figure out whether to accept or decline the celebratory luncheon that I’ve offered to host. Yeah, yeah, I know that these are “first world problems” and I’m not trying to give you a woe-is-me tale, I just wanted to point out that I’m in limbo regarding these nuptial celebrations and it’s frustrating. I want to be there for my friends, but I can’t figure out when or where “there” is.

Whether you’re planning something as elaborate as a wedding or even, say, a networking event it’s really a good idea to give the attendees as much information as possible, as soon as possible. Scheduling is difficult, so if you give invitees advance notice well ahead of the event date, then chances are that their calendars will be clearer so they will be able to fit it in. On the other hand, if you spring something on them at the last minute, then they will have to rearrange their lives around it – something that most people will opt not to do unless they really, really want to go. And, let’s face it, most networking events do not inspire that much excitement!

I didn’t think I’d ever need to write about planning ahead and giving attendees notice so that they will actually participate in your event – be it a wedding or a networking occasion. But I was wrong yet again! So the next time you plan any sort of gathering, do so early and give your guests ample notice so that they are able to attend.

10 Easy Conversation Starters

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Have you ever gone to a networking event and been approached by someone who introduces herself and then just stops talking? You know the cringe-worthy conversation I’m talking about: a friendly woman makes eye contact and walks over to greet you, tells you her name and company, you respond in kind, and then she just stands there waiting for you to keep the conversation going. That can lead to some terribly awkward moments of silence, but you can avoid those uncomfortable conversational lulls just by having some easy questions in your arsenal. Here are 10 of my favorites:

    1. I am unfamiliar with your company – what do you do?
    2. Can you tell me about what you do within your company?
    3. What brings you to this networking event?
    4. Are you active within [insert the name of the organization hosting the event here]?
    5. Do you know anything about this luncheon’s keynote speaker?
    6. This might not be professional, but I love your haircut – who does it?
    7. Oh wow, the hors d’oeuvres look good, have you tried them?
    8. I was listening to news radio on the way here, did you hear that [insert topical reference]?
    9. Do you feel that being a part of this chamber of commerce has helped you grow your business?
    10. Is it just me or do you feel totally awkward at events like these?

The next time you are at a networking event and someone introduces herself then just shuts down try one of my easy conversation-starting questions. Anyone with any sort of social skills will be able to answer them, and hopefully that will get a real discussion going.


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