Making the connection in a social media world - when and how do you do it?

April 28 2010

I had an interesting discussion with a co-worker yesterday and I wanted to bring the thoughts it generated to the blog for discussion.

Background:

My co-worker and I had a meeting with someone who could become a potential customer down the road. This was my first time meeting this person and second for my colleague. As we left the meeting, we talked about the follow-up. My initial reaction was to reach out in an email and send a LinkedIN invitation to create that first professional network connection. My co-workers reaction was not to make the LinkedIN connection. That was to be done later as you got to know each other better. There is a 10 year difference between us, but both of us are active in networking, both in person and on-line. I have this blog, my co-worker does not. We both use LinkedIN quite a bit. He has a Twitter account, but I am far more active. Facebook is something I also use far more heavily. We both use Slideshare quite a bit.

So I started thinking about how I connect with people after I meet them. I realized for me, it comes down to the medium, and in case of on-line social networking, the service. So here are my rules on when I connect with someone:

Business Cards:

I still scan every business card I receive into CardScan. I do this so I have a base database of contacts. I use CardScan to synch to Notes and Outlook (shock, yes, both). This gives me a baseline of who I have met, when, and what their basic contact data is.

Email:

If I meet someone in person, I always send them a 'thank you, nice to meet you' email. It is never canned and is usually within 24 hours of meeting them. I think there is a level of personal connection that you need to make to reinforce any thoughts or ideas that came from your discussion. Email should never replace a proper thank you card, gift, or phone call for important things. But email is the basic form of communication that everyone is used to.

Phone:The Background

When I am dealing with clients, I try to make any effort to call them regularly, outside of any project associated status call. I also do this with people who I refer to / am referred to often. You can not get proper tone and emotion from an email. Especially if something bad is going on.

Face to Face:

You can never play down the effect a face to face meeting has. I go out of my way to make sure I meet with people in person as regular as possible. Both for the enjoyment of the conversation, but also because there is information you can gather without hearing a word. Plus, some people prefer to only chat about sensitive things when they aren't in a place where something can be logged or recorded.

LinkedIN (Plaxo, Xing, and any other profile service):

I tend to connect with everyone I get a business card or email on LinkedIN. LinkedIN has become my personal address book. I don't do much organizing or note-taking on profiles on LinkedIN, but I am thinking about starting. This is the best way to make a professional connection that you can come back to down the road. I do use Plaxo and a few of the other profile sites, such as Xing, but I really do not connect directly on them. I let others send me requests on there - and feed my data to them.

Facebook:

Facebook is a multi-faceted beast that I still change how I use it regularly. I connect with lots of people on Facebook, but usually on less regular basis than LinkedIN. If I am meeting with a new client or partner company, I do go out of my way to locate them on Facebook. If they have a Page, I will 'Like' it before I meet them. I do this because I want to get more info on them - and show interest.

For individuals, I have groups made to organize folks. I limit my profile to not share everything with the entire world - you have to be a good friend or family to get the complete profile. But especially with the social media crowd, I do share my wall and news.

Twitter:

Twitter is a strange one for me. I have my profile locked down - and you need request to follow me. I actively search out people who I want to meet - or am going to meet - on Twitter and follow them before. Again, just like Facebook, I don't share my tweets with everyone. Maybe I need to have a Twitter account for the work stuff that is 100% open and another for the personal stuff for just those I want to read it. I have plans to really clean up and organize my use of Twitter over a weekend in May, and I will write more about that.

Slideshare:

Slideshare is a site that I am finding myself using more and more. I search for content on there regularly, both on topics and by speaker. But I am using Slideshare to distribute more information about what I do and PSC than any other service today. I will often send a link to a presentation or document that is on Slideshare rather than email it directly. This way, if someone likes what they read, they can comment and share it themselves. I am putting more and more of my conference content from the past 15 years on Slideshare every week. Much more to come.

Location services, like Foursquare, BriteKite, and others:

This is a strange category. Because all of this shares where I am, I do not connect with just anyone on these services. I even turned off the Twitter and Facebook updating (automatic) from them. I think it's cool to check in on FourSquare at the same time as Ed at the Anthony Bourdain event this past Saturday, but not sure everyone out there needs to know it. Especially prospects and clients.

Others:

The other areas of connection that I use today are instant messaging and blogs. I do connect with folks over IM as it makes sense, and follow blogs using Google Reader and/or FeedDemon as it makes sense. Nothing like I did 10 or even 5 years ago. Times change and so do the methods of connection.

Conclusion:

I do not think there is any right or wrong way on how you connect with people. It depends on the connection and the services you use. I think the only think that matters is that you are consistent and follow-up, no matter how you chose to do it.

So, what is everyone else doing? How do you connect, where, and when?

2 Responses to “Making the connection in a social media world - when and how do you do it?”

  1. 1) Denny Russell says:

    You are right, it is very interested in how people handle this same situation. I get very few business cards but when I do, the first thing I do is look them up on LinkedIn, then I make my connection so that we are 'linked' and I can find them in the future.

    I find Twitter a very useful technical resource. I follow a lot of keywords both around Lotus Notes and then more specific to the product line I work with. When I find someone Tweets something of interest, I then take a look at their recent entries and see what else is useful. If I find this may have been a one off, I don't follow. If I see they post something useful for me, I follow. I may start to engage them in conversation and then over time, send a LinkedIn request if it's someone I want to stay connected to.

    I'm in the process of building some training material for a Lunch and Learn session in my office that is similar to this topic. I'm really curious to see how others are connecting themselves outside our company.

  2. 2) Martin says:

    Wow, really interesting article, you do it quite differently than I do.

    I connect on LikedIn when I get to know them better (and the true is that in Czech Republic it isn't that popular).

    Facebook is my personal space, almost no business connections.

    Phone calls out of regular project calls? Never tried it and cannot really imagine what to talk about.

    Twitter - I just try to live there and I almost don't actively looking for new streams.

    A no "thank you" email after meeting but I find it a good idea.

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