Ryan Paugh is co-founder and COO of The Community Company and the YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council), and co-author with Scott Gerber of the new book Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter.
Where does most networking via social media fall short?
We’ve been taught, incorrectly, to believe that vanity metrics such as followers, likes and re-tweets are the things that are going to bring us bounty in terms of new contacts. Online interactions tend to be limited to the transactional and the short-term. What we too often miss is the bigger opportunity—the chance to use social media to form deeper relationships.
A meaningful relationship is one that has a significant impact on you and your business. Ultimately, the person may introduce you to a potential partner or investor, or even at some point become a member of your executive inner circle. This is the kind of relationship that takes time to develop, requires trust, and involves giving more than you expect to get.
Some of the most successful people on the planet are not where they are because they have millions of Twitter followers. They’re there because of a small inner circle of people who support them, and who they give back to in return, keeping in touch and providing resources as needed.
Where can an entrepreneur go online to develop these meaningful business relationships?
The key is to find small, private, curated groups, ideally with moderators in place to be sure people are following the rules. In these groups, you can avoid the noise of a platform like Twitter, where it’s hard to keep up with the back-and-forth of conversations and ideas. In a small, intimate circle, you can find quality over quantity. You can also avoid online hucksters who pretend to be what they’re not.
LinkedIn is getting interesting for this purpose right now because they’ve launched some new features and honed in on the importance of community and sharing ideas. Private Facebook groups can also be very effective.
Also, I believe professional member associations are about to undergo a huge renaissance as more people realize the disadvantages of open, noisy social media platforms and the way those platforms are sharing users’ data.
How can a person get the most out of such online groups?
The first step is to decide which of your business challenges could best benefit from a mentorship circle of peers.
That doesn’t mean it has to be a group of people exactly like you, with the same business challenges, who may even be competitors. You might instead benefit from help with a specific issue, such as online marketing or logistics. The best communities offer a ton of diversity in the type of skill sets people have to share.
Then, you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses and be ready to be vulnerable and talk about them. Other people are naturally more willing to help people who aren’t bashful and ashamed, who can be real and human and share things.
Through curated groups, you’ll often meet individuals with whom you want to invest in one-on-one conversations. It might start with an email exchange, and then move offline to a more human level. If there are geographic boundaries, a video chat could be great. If not, getting together for lunch is even better.
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