Up until recently I didn’t have a strategy for my Social Networking (SN) activities. I had joined several different SN in the hopes of getting more business. The results of my efforts showed my lack of strategic thinking. I was putting in some effort, and I was getting very little in return. The saying "hope is not a good business plan" certainly applied to my SN tactics.

Fortunately my strategy started evolving. Borrowing from my face-to-face networking experience, I realized that the first thing I needed to change was my attitude. It was necessary for me to move away from "what can I get?" to "what can I give?” The best analogy I've seen is one of a bank account. Any time you do something for someone, you are, in essence, making a deposit into their bank account. And every time you ask for something from someone, you are making a withdrawal. In order to ask others (withdraw), you first must have the money in the account (deposit). Once I began doing this, everything started falling into place.

One of the things I can easily give is useful information and resources. Through my personal growth company, we specialize in helping people and organizations build strong relationships. Over the 20 years I have accumulated a lot of useful information in this area. In addition I have been formally networking for over 10 years. For this reason I can easily “give” or make people feel welcome. I know how daunting it can be when you first attend an event or a meeting and you hardly know anyone. So having someone who is friendly and welcoming is of great help. The great thing about these two activities is that they don't require me to put anything at risk. Keep in mind giving direct referrals will come later during the credibility-trust phase of the process.

With giving information and building relationships in mind, I decided to start writing articles that people would find useful. To date I've done three, and I'm looking to continue doing more. I also started looking to answer questions that members post in the various forums on the different SN sites. This third step may surprise you--I self-appointed myself as a host to a number of social networking sites. I make a consistent effort to welcome and introduce myself to new members. This combination of “what can I give?” items has helped me build my network of people.

Once I started seeing some results from my efforts, I started inviting other people to join the different sites I had joined. I could now speak from experience that the sites were worthwhile. Now I'm giving something to the people I'm inviting while also giving something to my online community. It’s like making two deposits at one time. Now that's leverage!

The next step in the strategy is to build credibility and trust. Credibility and trust are key ingredients to successfully network online and offline. Finding a way to build these elements is essential. One way I'm building my credibility is by offering a free teleseminar. This is a wonderful vehicle to showcase what I know and how I can help people. The way I'm building trust is by receiving the endorsement of others. The easiest way to have people recommend me is to find the quality things they do for me and endorse them first. As I do this, more and more people return the favor.

The last step is to build exposure. The Referral Institute® has a model they call VCP which stands for Visibility, Credibility and Profitability. Simply put, people need to know about you and trust you before they will do business with you. I am definitely gaining exposure by leveraging some of the activities I've discussed. For instance, I can post the same article on varied SN sites. I can also list my teleseminar on different sites as well. The same Rick Itzkowich-branded content is now appearing in many places allowing different audiences to get to know me.

To summarize if you are going to take the time to jump on the Social Network bandwagon, do it with a success strategy. In his book Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, Larry Web encourages all of us to get on board sooner rather then later. I look forward to meeting and greeting you soon!

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