I wrote the other day on Google+ that the "secret" to social media effectiveness is to give first, without expectation. Mitch Joel cites this as giver's gain, one of the best ways to build up social currency. One of the most common questions about giver's gain that stops people from doing it is this:
"But what do I have to give?"
The answer is straightforward: give what people need. You may not be a great content creator, you may not have a lot of experience, but you can learn content arbitrage in about 20 seconds. It goes like this: learn what your network needs, learn who has it, and connect the two.
Learn what your network needs.
There are some universal needs that everyone in the business world wants. Revenue, obviously. Press and media attention. Employment. Very few people will say, no, I don't want more customers. Very few people will say, no, my business doesn't need any more press. Very few people will say, no, I'm not interested in more or better career opportunities.
How do you know what your network needs? Listen to them. The people who are top of mind for me are the people who respond to me, people who talk to me, people who overcome their own shyness or hesitation and say hello at a conference. They're the people who make a solid impression that tells me in a very short period of time who they are and what they do in an impactful way.
Your network is telling you this every day. Look on Facebook for what people are saying to you. Read what they tweet. See what they've edited on their LinkedIn profiles. Then start a running mental or physical list of who needs what.
Here's a "top secret" phrase you can search for: "anyone recommend". Look at the results for the metro Boston area:
People are asking you for your help all the time. You can easily provide it.
Learn who has it.
A 6 year old can search Google pretty easily. Answering the question of who can provide what your network needs is a matter of asking for data sources. Want to find press opportunities for your network? Subscribe to Peter Shankman's Help A Reporter service and read through the 3 emails he sends each day that have limitless press opportunities in them. Find relevant queries for people in your network and forward the individual queries by email, and you've given people in your network opportunities for free earned press.
Does someone in your network need a job? Subscribe to appropriate geographic and industry feeds on Craigslist (there's an RSS feed at the bottom of every job category). Listen on Twitter for people posting job ads. Check LinkedIn for who is hiring in your area - just go to News > Signal, and type hiring in the search box and you'll see everyone asking for people to hire.
Who wants more business? You can be the provider of connections. Look for complementary businesses in your networks and proactively reach out and connect people. Who needs business? Learn who does what in your network and broker introductions.
The power is in your hands.
Here's the most important lesson of all: none of these tasks require a marketing degree, a large business budget, or anything other than the ability to search intelligently. If you're a college student looking to build a network before you graduate, if you're someone looking for work, if you're a sales guy or gal looking for deeper business relationships, these are all things you can do right now, today, at no cost except your time.
Social media success is waiting in front of you right now. Go get it!
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