How I’m learning to make this generation’s version of the cocktail party work for me
February 26, 2012
February 26, 2012
I’ve attended way too many social gatherings over the years hoping that my networking efforts would eventually put good-paying freight on my trucks. People my age call it “working the room.” I could never understand folks who attended cocktail parties but didn’t engage. Frankly, I wonder why they even bothered attending. It seemed like such a waste of time.
Social media is this generation’s cocktail party. Networking sites are a place where like-minded people meet and share ideas.
The day I began adding “friends” on Facebook was the day I thought I was on my way to joining the social media party. Fast-forward 12 months and my efforts produced a Facebook page that I look at less than once a month, 490 LinkedIn contacts I still don’t know, I follow Bob McKenzie on Twitter, and zero new business. I would have been better off printing brochures and cold calling. It seemed like such a waste of time.
Looking back, I realized that I was the guy at the party in the corner waiting for the world to come to him. I never worked the room.
Converting LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and other relationships into business is a lot more complex than I anticipated. Here are some thoughts and a few things I’m going to try to improve my results this year.
1. Getting to the Party
My limited tech skills consist of hitting “on” and “accept” buttons, but my instincts about what makes people tick are pretty sharp. As I was eating my Corn Flakes one morning, watching my kids thumb away at their fancy smart phones, I saw that social media works best when you can access it anywhere.
Nearly 45% of active Facebook users currently access the site through their mobile device. It’s close to 55% for Twitter users. I’m not among them. By the time I find a Wifi connection and boot up my laptop, I’m busy doing something else.
So I’m upgrading my Fred Flintstone-age Blackberry to something that runs the mobile apps I need, and I’ve enlisted three consultants to help their Dumb Dad get in the game.
2. Find the Right Party
LinkedIn has hundreds of transportation and logistics-related discussion groups and blogs. Joining them was easy. Getting benefits from these groups was not. Everyone who posted either was tooting their own horn, looking for a job, or trying to sell me a something. It was like entering a room with 100 noisy Liberals. I tuned out.
I have cut back to two discussion groups: one personal and one professional. Starting small will give me a better chance to follow and join conversations. Experimenting in a subject I’m passionate about—yep, hockey—adds a fun factor while I learn the ins and outs of working the room. This year, if the party isn’t any fun, I won’t be hanging around very long.
3. Shake Some Hands
Extending your hand used to be the best way to greet new people. Today, shaking someone’s hand means posting a compelling article, commenting on someone’s blog, or asking a group for advice. There is no way you’ll meet anyone at a party unless you reach out and say hi.
The goal is not to sell, it’s to attract. It’s more important to be a trusted and reliable source of information than a pushy freight pimp. Don’t be an online Herb Tarlek and run around the party flogging brochures that no one is interested in. Business will come over time as you learn to convert friends to followers to customers.
4. Build Relationships
The end game is all about shekels and learning how social media can improve my company’s bottom line. Following customers, competitors, and suppliers can deliver loads of critical and timely information you can use daily to improve your business. Before any meeting I’m using social media to learn as much as I can about the company and the person I’m about to do business with. You can never have enough current information on existing customers, employees, or the dog trying to steal your bone.
5. Talk to Me
As a columnist I get truckloads of requests from companies asking me to write about their $29.99 gadget that guarantees 35% fuel savings. Since I’ve been putting pen to paper professionally, it’s been a policy of mine never to overtly promote anything including my company or me.
But I will say this: I’m officially on Twitter at @AceMcC (I signed up on my own, without help from kids). I invite you to follow me, check out who I follow, and ask questions about trucking. Or hockey. Either way, I look forward to working the room and getting to know you. Mike McCarron is the managing partner at MSM Transportation (www.shipmsm.com) in Bolton, Ont., which specializes in moving products between Canada and the rest of the world. He can be reached at email@example.com or @AceMcC on Twitter.
Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in the “monetizing” of transportation companies. A 30-year industry veteran, he founded MSM Transportation which he sold in 2012. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 416-931-7212. Follow him on Twitter: @AceMcC All posts by Mike McCarron