The case for connection

Yesterday a friend of mine posted to facebook that her 13-year-old son stated that “facebook is for old people.” This is in direct contrast to what my 81-year-old Mother says. She believes that social media and facebook, in general, are for the younger generation. I suppose I am comfortably entrenched in the middle group. The group that believes facebook, LinkedIn and social media in general were made for me. Of course, I know everyone in my demographic won’t agree to my assumptions about social media, and that’s okay. Those folks most likely won’t be reading my posts, my newsletter, or my facebook feed so they won’t be commenting or sharing my content or my opinions.
And that, my friends, is what I think is such a tragic shame. It is in direct contrast to what most business people tout as the key (or at least one of the keys) to their success:
It’s not what you know, but who you know.
And one of my other favorite quotes to evangelize (since I’m firmly on my soapbox now) is
People do business with people they know, like and trust.

Social media, in all of it’s various forms, provides ways to build relationships with people in your extended network. For those of us who have businesses of our own, it’s also a way to build your brand, communicate your purpose, showcase your unique differences, and sometimes, Lord forbid, even have a little fun.

Yesterday one of my employees asked me what I felt the brand of my business was? This is a fair question. More than fair, since I tasked her with working on some of the branded marketing pieces for my company. The reason it struck a cord with me was because it demonstrated a big gaping hole in our internal communication. Why? Because I realized that none of my employees are reading any of the material I write, share, post, or contribute to social media. And that got me wondering why they haven’t connected with me? Is it because I’m the boss? That could be a valid reason for not connecting on their personal facebook pages, but my business facebook page should be something they are following and watching, as well as my LinkedIn profile, and certainly reading the company blog and website.

Not every CEO is as deeply connected to their marketing and social media efforts as I am. I get that. I am deeply dedicated to the development of the voice of my company, and I invest hours each and every day making sure I am personally representing my company’s brand and culture. Maybe that is something that more small business owners do on their own, maybe not. I truly think it depends on each business owner’s own interest and comfort with marketing and branding.
That said, it shines a big flashing light on a something I think that every employee and business owner should consider; connecting with people that have an impact on your life. That group should include (in no particular order)

your boss
your mentors
the company your work for
the companies you regularly do business with
the companies you would like to do business with
your clients companies
the social groups you attend
business groups you are a part of (or would like to be)
your church and civic organizations
your childrens school and social groups

To expand on this list, I would recommend connecting with your friends businesses and social groups as well. And watching the groups and social causes that your boss and CEO are connected to. That can give you some surprising insights into who they are, and how they spend their time away from work. For some of you, I realize that may be going a bit far into the realm of connecting, and that is okay. You have to choose what’s right for you.

For me, connections can provide powerful insights into the story behind the person or company. Connecting with that story can open many doors.
For instance, what if the company you dream of working for is a big supporter of your childs little league team? That piece of knowledge could open the door to a conversation that may lead to a future job.
Perhaps the industry leader you would love to meet is a personal friend of one of your connections. (We call this the six degrees of Kevin Bacon- you never know who you know, that may already know who you would like to know)
Or suppose that you have a dream opportunity to win a large contract that could generate a huge amount of revenue for your company. Learning as much as you can about the company and it’s C-Suite executives could create a powerful advantage. Afterall, who doesn’t love to be in a room with people that have done their homework, and already know and understand your vision and company brand?

To end with a bit of irony, it was my Mother who said to me years ago “collect people along the way. They will be your most valuable asset.”
That advice has served me extremely well in business and in life. When you need the support of your friends, community, and co-workers, it is best to have invested in strengthening those relationships prior to reaching out. So I urge you, take five minutes today to connect and invest in the relationships that matter.

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