Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a person to have hundreds of social media connections.
But more important than building up online connections is being able to turn those connections into real live business or career opportunities.
“If you just have a bunch of connections online but you have no interaction with them, then there’s no point,” says Nancy Richmond, a professor of social media at Florida International University and a speaker on social media, personal branding and marketing. “It’s really important to figure out how you can interact with your connections both in-person and offline.”
For Richmond, doing this involved taking a month-long road trip from Los Angeles to Seattle last summer. Along the way she was able to turn several online connections into in-person interactions as she interviewed experts on best social media practices for a textbook she’s writing.
For her, tapping into her college alumni networks through LinkedIn to reach out to alums already working at companies she wanted to connect with proved successful.
By doing that, she arranged meetings at individual companies, as well as hosted meet-ups at area restaurants. All told, she met with over 100 people that started out as social media connections.
To be sure, LinkedIn can be powerful when you’re trying to create offline relationships, says Glenn Goldberg, chief executive of Parallel Communications Group of Oceanside, a tech-focused public relations firm.
He used LinkedIn to connect with a tech company that he’s now in the process of turning into a client.
The relationship started when he sent the firm’s marketing director a LinkedIn invitation. Once they connected online, he discovered the firm was going to be at a Florida trade show that he was also attending. Goldberg reached out to the marketing director to see if they could meet face-to-face at the event.
They met and exchanged emails for a few months until that company was ready to take the next step, says Goldberg, who declined to name the firm because their deal is not finalized.
He has also used LinkedIn to find employees, hiring his account supervisor, Suzanne Mattaboni, by tapping into connections they shared on the site.
For many, social media can offer an opportunity to not just get new clients but also pursue new career opportunities, says Rita Maniscalco, a Huntington career, life and business coach and past president of the International Coach Federation, Long Island Chapter.
If you set your sights on certain companies you’d like to work for, you can then see what connections you have that also have a connection to those companies, she notes.
You wouldn’t contact the person’s connection directly unless you have LinkedIn Premium, which allows you to contact people who aren’t your direct connections, but you can contact your connection and ask for an introduction, she suggests.
It’s best to reach out first to those connections with whom you have some relationship, adds Thomas Jacoberger, president of Fat Guy Media, a Mineola web design, online marketing and social media company.
Don’t assume they’re willing to make an introduction, but rather ask if they’re willing to do so, he says.
Once they’ve made that introduction, it’s up to you to follow up, notes Maniscalco. This could be through an email saying, “Hi, I’m happy to e-meet you and hope we can arrange a time to speak,” she says.
You can also start following people you want to connect with on LinkedIn or even Twitter and interact with them by liking their posts or tweets or making comments, says Jacoberger.
It gets a rapport going, he notes.
Beyond that, if you’re trying to connect with a consumer base, put out some interesting content for your followers so they can see what you do, suggests Steve Asman, president of Gustbuster Ltd., a Farmingdale-based umbrella company.
This can prompt a prospect to reach out to you directly, he says.
“I need to put even more content up,” notes Asman, adding that he’s gotten customers this way.
Percentage of business-to-business marketers that have generated leads via LinkedIn, vs. only 39% via Facebook and just 30% via Twitter.