Reflections on Using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter

Evolving State of the Art Calls for Multiple Platform Perspective to Increase Engagement

2008_Predct_stratSpecializing in Web 2.0 and social networking since early 2006, I’ve formulated strategy and programs for hundreds of business and government leaders.  The main goal of these initiatives has been engaging people in the most appropriate and effective way.  Since many of my clients are B2B (business to business, commercial) executives, I have worked extensively with LinkedIn because it has been most relevant for most situations (it still is).

However, I am increasingly seeing cases in which people have accelerated relationships by connecting in multiple platforms, and this is growing in importance in client work.  Here I will offer a cursory introduction of this concept and how it can work.

I am also pleased to announce that the Executive’s Guide to Facebook will launch next month. If you are in Chicago, you can attend a special sneak preview on May 4.

What Is a Venue or Platform?

I like to think of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others as “venues” because they are places that have defined characteristics that facilitate certain kinds of interaction. Like restaurants or bars, they imbue meetings with a social context that can add or detract from the meeting.  You already use dozens of (offline) places every month to meet clients. Similarly, various “social networks” are more appropriate for engaging clients, depending on’ personalities, the business at hand, etc. Let’s take a quick look at some major venues (“platform” would be more of a software term):

  • LinkedIn has done a great job at creating a social context that’s all business, and this is congruent throughout the site. When you join LinkedIn, you are trying to improve your business—and that of the “Connections” in your network. It facilitates business relationships and conducting business.
  • Facebook is more like “the portal of life”; many people think of it as more “personal,” and that’s accurate at a high level. The social context is playful and experimental—not as conservative. Here you have “Friends.”
  • Twitter is a network, and it’s very social, but it is not a “social network” venue in the same way as the first two: it is not based on a profile, but on terse communications with networks of “Followers” whom you often follow as well. It can be very personal and businesslike.
  • YouTube and Flickr are also  social networks, but in a different category, because their purpose is sharing video and photo content. However, like all Web 2.0 applications, much of their value is the conversations that unfold around the content. Members are connected though subscribing to each other’s (video) lists and photostreams.

Using Social Networks to Connect

Returning to our goal—to discover prospects and develop business relationships—each of these venues could enable you to develop or deepen a relationship. Consider:

  • You meet a prospect for lunch and end up talking golf horror stories. As a follow-up, you could send her a link to you fighting out of the brush.
  • You connect with a prospect on LinkedIn by having an intense exchange about transfer pricing and Asian subsidiaries in one of the Answers forums. You send him a link to a video on the subject.
  • You have had a couple of email exchanges and calls with a prospect, and you are going to lunch at the end of the week. Dial in to Facebook to see if he’s a member; who are his friends? What is his Facebook presence like? By gleaning personal nuggets, you dramatically increase the chance that you will develop a stronger connection.
  • Returning to the bar metaphor, having a drink with someone in three different bars on three different days will enable you to know each other more quickly (especially if the bars are very different) because you can both watch how you respond to the different environments. The same is true with social networks. Following someone on Twitter or friending her on Facebook will give you a far different picture of the person—and enable him or her to know you better.

Making It Practical

Most people feel overwhelmed when they think about multiple presences; however, once they understand what they can do, and what their purpose is, this is quite feasible.  Most sites offer privacy features that most people don’t know about.  LinkedIn’s privacy controls are very robust.  Facebook’s Friend Lists enables members to restrict certain content to specific Friend Lists, so you have hive off the baby pictures and fraternity albums.  Very powerful.

Since most of my clients have a professional or business social context around their careers, it will be most appropriate for them to focus on LinkedIn and to supplement it with the others.

To develop a relationship, you need to consider the other person and share information or thoughts with him/her in the most appropriate way, but using surprise and personal touches can speed up the process.  Using the networks in combination will end up being most practical.  Also think, “In which venue is the other person most comfortable or approachable?”  

For example, what if you discover that hard-to-reach CIO’s Photostream of wildflowers? Think of what a great way to connect, once you know how. The key is being authentic; don’t try to come across as being interested in the photos if you really are not. You will be found out at some point—and thoroughly discredited. Find true connection points—they usually exist—so you don’t have to fake it. These networks help you to find them more quickly.

This is what the Executive’s Guide to Facebook is about.. and the Executive’s Guide to Twitter.  In each case, we define elements of the site and key processes, so you can use the sites’ capabilities to achieve business goals.  We explicitly examine culture as well as how the sites fit into the ecosystem (the overall context).

If you want to be one of the first out of the gate with using LinkedIn and Facebook together, here is more information about the May 4 event.

What are your experiences?

How have you used different venues in combination, and what have you learned?

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