In the 1992 pop hit, “I’m Too Sexy,” by Right Said Fred, lead singer Fred Fairbrass insists he’s “too sexy for Milan, New York, and Japan.” It’s a silly statement.
Just as silly was a statement by one of New York’s most prominent estate planning attorney, who told me he’s too sexy for social networking. I won’t name him because he’s a close friend and he’ll never come to our house for dinner again.
But he only had a couple of glasses of wine when he said that all of the requests to connect that he’d received on LinkedIn were from people who wanted to sell him something, socio-economic climbers who’d benefit from knowing him. He wasn’t connecting with people from which he could learn, get referrals, or derive some other benefit from knowing virtually.
This was my first reaction, too, when I first started using LinkedIn and again when I first used twitter. But once you use these tools, you figure out how the privilege of giving away information benefits you as long as you target the right people.
My lawyer friend is actually right about one thing: LinkedIn connections that you want to connect with probably won’t seek you out. You have to seek them out.
If you wait for your target client to seek you out, you won’t see the value in social networking. You have to go to them. On LinkedIn, this means looking at other people’s connections to see who among them you want to know.
For instance, say you’re an estate planning attorney or financial advisor and corporate executives with stock options, deferred compensation plans, and restricted stock are your target clients. You want to connect with senior executives at numerous companies in your area or industry about which you’re an expert.
In LinkedIn, you could click the “Search” the pull-down menu next to the “Search Companies.” If you want information about executives at Research In Motion, for instance, you click on “see more” in the “Current Employees” section at the top of the page and you’ll get a list of hundreds of executives. If you only want top executives from RIM, use Advanced Search to filter for “Senior Vice President.”
You can request a connection with top executives at just about all of the 1,000 largest companies in the country.
Is that like cold-calling? Not if you have information valued by these executives.
If you request connecting because you have a white paper about the latest tax court ruling on restricted stock sales, or offer a service that tracks insider stock trades by executives at his company every day, he may value that.
Or, better still, network with people you know. If you have a client or college buddy who is a top executive at RIM, for instance, why not connect? You can then ask that friend to introduce you to a colleague at RIM. If you know the SVP for handheld software development, you can look at his connections. You might find that the SVP for channel sales went to the same high school as you or previously worked with someone else that you know and you could ask for an introduction to that person.
The same rules apply to Twitter. A lot of the people who want to “follow” me want to sell me something—search engine optimization, social networking tools, financial planning software. And that’s okay. Sometimes they actually have valuable information for me.
But at the same time I’m actively reaching out to financial advisors on Twitter and Linkedin and streaming news about personal finance, regulators, and marketing. I’m updating people I connect with about my latest blog posts about advanced marketing techniques and events in the economy.
To make social networking work for you, figure out who your target clients are and what information you could easily send them regularly for free to prove your value to them. Shortly after you do that, you’ll stop complaining that only product salespeople want to connect with you and realize that you’re not too sexy for social networking.
For more information about Twitter and social networking, please read my latest column in Financial Advisor.
And please register for this week’s session of the Financial Crisis Webinar Series on Friday at 4 p.m., when I will speak about Twitter for advisors.