None of us can deny the exponential growth of online social networking in business. In the past two years web applications such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Meetup, and Twitter have become enormously popular. Why? In the words of Jim McCarty from a previous interview, “Everybody Prospects.” These are merely tools of doing so, and they can be effective for you, provided you use (and not abuse) them correctly.
Take Twitter for example. Often described as a “mini-blog,” most recently, it has been hailed as the latest and greatest tool for recruiters—a designation that was previously awarded (if not officially) to LinkedIn. How can this simple tool be used to prospect for new business?
This nagging question was soon answered by Brian Lockrey, President/CEO at Assist Data Recovery. Brian has quite a bit to share with about his use of Twitter (ID: 1datarecovery). In fact, he even runs an effective resource for Twitter users, called TwittGroups.com. So, how does Brian use Twitter to prospect for business?
“I’ll say this up front,” Brian replies, “Like any other resource out there, it’s going to be more useful for some people than it will with others. It just depends on the kind of business you are in.” Brian is in the data recovery business—so when someone’s hard drive crashes (and it hasn’t been properly backed up), and the data on that drive MUST be recovered, he’s the man you call.
“I’m a first responder, if you will,” Brian continues. “I have a growing base of people following me on Twitter. One example of how it helps me generate business is when Charlie, a Twitter user, runs into a computer problem—like a hard drive crash. Charlie doesn’t know what to do, and hasn’t backed up his data. So, Charlie sends out a “tweet” (the act of posting to Twitter, if you will—ed.), saying something like ‘My hard drive crashed and I need my files! Help!’”
“Well, odds are Charlie and I are not following each other (directly connected—ed.) on Twitter, even though we are both members of the community. But Jane, one of my followers, is also following Charlie. Jane knows me in the Twitter community and what I do. Maybe she has hired me before—maybe not. But either way, when she sees Charlie’s tweet (cry for help—ed.), she tweets back telling him to call me.”
Brian says this happens all the time. “There are several conditions that are required if you want to create these kinds of outcomes,” he points out. “First, you become part of a community, and do so by investing just a few minutes per day on Twitter, and helping people out. For example, like on a bulletin board, people will post all kinds of simple troubleshooting questions or maybe they are seeking a software solution to complete a specific task. If I can help that person in someway, either by directly answering a question or referring them to something (like a website or software application) or someone (a fellow Twitter user) who can help them solve their problem, I feed relationships through value. And I contribute to the community.”
Following Keith Farazzi’s advice to “never eat alone,” Brian will also use Twitter to have impromptu meetings for lunch or coffee. “If I find myself headed somewhere and have some time, I’ll send out a tweet of where I am going with an open invitation to meet. Believe it or not, it works.”
Like any other online social networking vehicle—and so far they differ from each other greatly while still having fundamental traits in common—the value you get from using Twitter is going to parallel the value you offer to the community. It is not a forum for posting “advertisements” or content that is purely self-promotional. “That will get you marked very quickly,” Brian cautions.
For me, it’s a tip I am glad to hear, and to share. I have stated from the beginning: the best way to build and nurture long-term prosperous relationships is through value. Serve your prospects. Whether you are in the real world or the online world, what goes around comes around.