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Let’s face it — networking has changed just like almost every aspect of business. Now businesses are taking payments on their mobile phones and people are buying products online using their tablets and smart phones. With all the changes, it is still a great time to start a business.

It’s one of the reasons that I started Blue 16 Media. In addition to “16″ being an important number to me personally, “16″ also symbolizes a change of the times for business owners. While business as usual is still important, it doesn’t hold the weight that it once did. People aren’t opening up yellow page directories to call businesses and they aren’t driving down the street to look for the storefronts of their favorite businesses.

Listen to this statistics from Business Insider: There Will Be Soon Be a Smartphone for Every 5 People in The World. That’s 1.4 billion smartphones in the world. Here are some other changes:

  • Facebook has more members than some countries
  • People are watching YouTube instead of cable TV
  • Blogs are replacing large media institutions
  • Twitter is breaking news

Just like the 16th year of our lives is important because we grow up from being a child to become an adult, business owners must understand that change is happening now so that you can change in the present but also for the future.

With all these changes, there are some things that remain true. In business, your network is a vital part of your success, and while the way we network may be different with LinkedIn and Facebook, it is still vital to network.

Here is a list of 16 things you should know about networking with social media:

  1. Understand the psychology and demographics of each site. Facebook has a different psychology than LinkedIn and a Twitter user is different from a Instagram user. LinkedIn has more professionals so you’re less likely to see intimate information like about a person’s children or pets. Facebook, however, is more intimate, so you are more likely to see a person’s family or personal information about them.
  2. It’s a jab. Currently, I’m reading Gary Varynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” and in it Vaynerchuk uses a boxing metaphor where a jab is equivalent to giving and a hook is asking for the something. So consider networking just a jab setting up your right hook. It might be 2 or it might be 30 jabs but it is setting you up to close business. Send a quick message to introduce yourself to a LinkedIn connection.
  3. Be a reporter. Ask questions and take a genuine interest in people and find out what’s going on in their lives. Find out what they do, what their pain points are, what their favorite foods are, what school their kids attended, etc. Often if you are connecting on social networks, you can make these connections with your own life to develop relationships. Maybe you used to work at the same company as one of your connections or possibly you are a member of the same group.
  4. Accept connections. If people want to connect with you, accept them at least on LinkedIn and send them a message. That’s increasing your network. If you want to have your Facebook private, keep it private and create a “professional Facebook profile.” If you don’t want to accept an invitation, send a message and say that would rather connect on LinkedIn.
  5. Find out what people are talking about. Use Trending Tweets to your advantage. Twitter is a big conversation in which you can enter at any moment or just listen to what’s going on. Just because it’s being talked about on Twitter doesn’t mean you can’t have that conversation outside of Twitter. It just means this is what a lot of people are talking about.
  6. Join groups. The more groups you belong to and interact with, the wider your “net” is cast for people you can meet and interact with. Ask questions and introduce thought-provoking statistics, but remember to always add value.
  7. Add value. Connected to points #2 and #3. Make sure that you are adding value to the conversation or the person’s life. Are you offering solutions? Are you making them laugh or smile?
  8. Engage. Did a person get a new job on LinkedIn? Congratulate them. Is it someone’s birthday? Send them a Facebook message. Do you know that someone loves the New York Knicks? Ask them and ask if they think Carmelo Anthony will stay this year or leave. Engage and have a conversation.
  9. Listen. This is huge. One of the worst things is talking with someone who isn’t listening. While on social networks it is a little different because if you are sending messages on LinkedIn with someone or posting a comment on Pinterest, you can always come back and respond the next day. If you do that at a networking event, don’t expect to make a good first impression.
  10. You can leave social media. Just because you meet someone online that doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Send a message and ask if you can meet to get a cup of coffee, or ask to schedule a phone call.
  11. Test, test, test. Put together a “template” that you customize and ask your connections if you can schedule a 5-10 minute phone conversation. Find out what their goals are. If this doesn’t work, then try a different social network and/or a different template. Try and test different approaches to find out what works best for you.
  12. Complete your profile and look for those with a completed profile. Add a picture, add the places that you’ve worked in the past. Join groups. These are all things that make your profile “sticky.” If I learned anything from BNI, you can be surprised what people do outside of their “job” and who they are connected to. If you interned with the Supreme Court, add it to the profile; there might be someone that is interning now who is looking on LinkedIn and searching for you. When researching someone to message, if they don’t have a complete profile they may not use the site and may not see your message.
  13. Complete your business information. For LinkedIn, it’s LinkedIn Pages and for Facebook it’s your Facebook Page. You want to let people know what you do before they speak to you. The beauty of social media is that you can research — or stalk, depending how you look at it — before you have a conversation. You want to make sure that you are telling the world what your business does.
  14. Make updates. It’s a general rule that the more active you are, the more opportunities someone has to find you. If you post interesting information on LinkedIn or Facebook throughout the day, you could attract people to you. Write a post on Medium. Pin something on Pinterest and post a picture on Instagram. It might be a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter or a comment on LinkedIn, but people could respond and that’s an opportunity to make a connection. Don’t be overwhelmed. Pick one social network and own it!
  15. Don’t just sell. You’re networking online in order to provide value and help out your connection. Don’t just tell them you sell golden toothbrushes and expect them to buy from you.
  16. Plan. It’s vital that you plan. Just like your marketing or sales strategy, your networking should be the same. Have a strategy and goal to hold yourself to. If you are a real estate agent and would like to meet more buyers and sell three houses using LinkedIn, focus and do it.

For the most part, I focused on LinkedIn and Facebook with a mix of some other social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. Each site has its own nuances and qualities but just because there’s not a lot of business owners on Tumblr it doesn’t mean you can’t cut through the noise and develop some strong connections with the business owners that are there.

At the end of the day, be active. Everyone’s networking goals and plans are different but that doesn’t mean that you can’t leverage the major social media sites. In the future the names will change, but the principles will remain the same.

About Gresham Harkless

Gresham Harkless is a Local Media Consultant Blue16Media and writer for CEO Blog Nation. He regularly writes and contributes to support entrepreneurs, startups and business owners. He blogs on CEO Blog Nation at www.progreshion.ceoblognation.com.

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