If you haven’t received the results that you hoped for after joining and participating in various Social Networking (SN) sites, there’s a good possibility it’s because you’ve made one or more of these mistakes. I’ve made everyone of these mistakes and paid the price. On the flip side, I’ve also corrected these mistakes and the results have been phenomenal.

Mistake # 1: Not having the right mindset.
If you go into SN with a sales mentality, you will fail. Sales is about closing transactions. Networking is about building relationships. There’s a time where selling is appropriate in a relationship. However nothing damages a relationship faster than selling without first building a relationship.

The Referral Institute™ teaches the VCP model. VCP stands for Visibility – Credibility – Profitability. In simple terms, this means that people need to first know who you are. Then they need to trust you. It’s only when they both know and trust you that they comfortably buy from you. Trying to move from visibility to profitability without earning credibility doesn’t work.

To correct Mistake #1 shift your focus from selling to building relationships.

Mistake #2: Not having a strategy.
Going into the SN arena without having a strategy is like going to the grocery store without a list, and to make matters even worse, going when you’re starving. Odds are you will forget to buy some of the items you truly needed, and you will bring home some junk instead.

Using the VCP model, you must have a strategy to increase both your visibility and your credibility. When you accomplish this, generating business will be much easier. So what would be an example of a strategy to build your visibility? At Biznik.com you can easily do this by writing articles, hosting events, posting comments, answering questions, welcoming people and more. It means getting involved in the SN community. The more involved you are, the more visibility you gain.

One easy way to build credibility is to have people who already trust you give you a testimonial or third party endorsement. Look for people you know who are already members on the site and ask them for a testimonial. Better yet, offer a testimonial for them first. If you don’t have anyone you know on the network, invite them to join. Once you start building your relationships with others on the network, they too will be able to give you testimonials.

To correct Mistake #2 come up with a strategic plan to gain visibility and credibility.

Mistake #3: Not having patience.
We live in a fast-paced society--one with very little patience. We eat fast food. We drive fast cars. We multitask. We all have been conditioned to expect immediate results. So we usually give our social networking a few weeks or months. If we don’t get any sales, we quit.

Steven Covey tells a story about what it takes for the bamboo plant to grow. He states that there are certain types of bamboo plants that take up to four years before they come out of the ground. Prior to them coming out of the ground, the plants are growing by spreading their roots underground. If you didn’t know this, it looks like nothing is happening. On the other hand, once they break ground, they surge upward from 12-36 inches in a 24-hour period!

Networking is very similar to this. I’m not saying that it will take four years before you see results, but it certainly won’t be immediate. So building your visibility and your credibility takes time. It is like the bamboo plant spreading its roots. Eventually you will start generating business. You just have to be patient.

To correct Mistake #3 give yourself twice as much time as you think you will need before you evaluate whether your efforts are paying off.

Mistake #4: Not having any free products to give away.
My wife is from Sweden. In her country it’s very common for people who visit other people’s homes to always bring a gift. It’s not about bringing a gift on a special occasion. It’s about the principle of gratitude. If someone is inviting you to their home, you express your gratitude by bringing a gift.

In networking this principle is very powerful as well. Showing someone gratitude and appreciation is a great way to build the relationship. However, nowadays free does not carry the punch that it once did. This is because very seldom is “free” truly free. My dad jokes that “free” is the most expensive word in the dictionary. So offering a free gift is often viewed with suspicion – especially when the gift is connected with the product or service you are selling.

On the other hand, if the intent behind the gift is to truly express appreciation for connecting, it brings you closer to the other person. When it takes on a “pay it forward” approach, the results can be remarkable.

One of the best tactics you can use in your SN strategy is to find or develop a gift you can offer to prospects for free—one that’s not directly related to what you sell. After trying different things myself, I finally created a product that accomplished the above goal. Since I’ve incorporated this product, I’ve been generating 8-10 new qualified prospects every week.

To correct Mistake #4 develop a product or service that has value in the eyes of your prospects. Make sure that it’s not related to your core offering and give it away for free. If you can’t come up with a product of your own, or you just don’t feel like reinventing the wheel, please contact me. I’ll be glad to talk about how you can use my product.

Mistake #5: Focusing on numbers vs. relationships.
Joining many sites and adding lots of friends or people to your network is not a strategy. It may be good for your ego, but it will not result in you doing business. Remember networking is about relationships--not about numbers.

You’re better off building a smaller network of people with whom you have a relationship, than a larger group of people you don’t know or interact with. Remember in order to gain visibility, you will have to get involved and participate in the community.

To correct mistake #5 limit the number of sites you belong to. Ideally choose no more than three or four -- depending on the amount of time that you are willing to devote to your overall strategy. Deeper is better than wider. Try a site, get involved and see how you like it. Most networking sites give you access to a free version so that you can try it out before you commit money and start paying for additional features. New Social Networking sites are being added every week. Don’t go chasing for the “latest, greatest” or the one that your friend invited you to. Stick to a few and work them. If one doesn’t work, then go ahead and add a new one.

In a future article I’ll cover tactics I’ve been using to implement this strategy of focusing on relationships.

Author's Bio: 

Rick Itzkowich
The Linked In Guy

As the creator of the Link Power Coaching Program, Rick Itzkowich has created live presentations and products that meet today’s demand for tools to use with social media. His marketing articles, podcasts and blog messages regarding how to add LinkedIn to a company’s marketing plan, as well as his QuoteActions or web-based quotes and actions to keep your brand "top of mind" are in high demand. The Link Power Coaching Program and eBook, Social Networking for Business Profits, educate the solo-preneur and small business owner in powerful referral marketing strategies. Most recently Rick was a presenter at You Learn Twit Face, an international social media conference held in Dubai where he earned the Best Speaker Award. Rick is also a featured columnist for The National Networker (TNNW). His column is titled -- Being There When It Matters.

Rick Itzkowich brings a wealth of business experience to his coaching programs and products. In 1992 he co-founded Productive Learning & Leisure, an organization that offers courses, learning adventures and products that enhance people’s success in both their business and personal life. As a small business owner, Rick understands the cost of marketing. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has identified and designed highly successful online and offline strategies to cost-effectively market a business’ products and services.

Rick can be reached at Rick@rickItzkowich.com