I am an introvert. I have always been one. I love science fiction and always hated big crowds. Talking to other people was difficult when I was 10 and 15, and 18 and even 32. It’s gotten easier, but it still taxes me heavily, especially when people I don’t know try to make small talk with me.
Susan Cain, Founder of the Quiet Revolution, knows a lot about how introverts feel. She’s written a lot about it, and she even gave a TED talk that I loved. She doesn’t believe introverts can’t engage. Quite contrary, she’s a firm believer that introverts make great engagers. I can’t explain it as well as she does but I like the concept and the action it propels me to. Susan inspired me as well as other introverts with this approach.(*)
Anyone can engage, but can they do it in a way that it draws attention or generates action? That’s what engagement is about in Social networks and more so in Social Selling. It is rather confusing though as engaging others can be a challenge, a particularly hard one to meet when it comes to sales. Even more so when you are trying to close that sale.
Discover and Share valuable information to initiate or maintain a relationship
That’s how LinkedIn describes the “Engaging with Insights” Pillar, the 3rd one that makes up their Social Selling Index or SSI. It is a wonderful description, and yet it is also a daunting one. There are four parts to it. Let’s break it down.
Discover and Share
If you ask a sales person what’s the most cumbersome task they were ever asked to perform, the answer you’ll get will be “doing anything with content,” after “updating the CRM.” There is a misconception around managing content when it comes to sales. When I say “you need to share more content,” most sales rep usually translate into “God, now I need to sit down and start writing stuff. Man, how do they expect me to sell?”.
The first step to engage is to know your audience. Are you reaching out to one person in particular, or are you talking to a broader audience in hopes of catching their (or even one person’s) attention?
You should first research the person or the group you are reaching out to, see what they like, comment or share and don’t limit yourself to LinkedIn. Go beyond. If they have a website, visit it. If they have a Twitter account, follow them and see if they follow back. Look at what they post, when they do so and if they comment on it. Check their connections too.
Sharing content without knowing who you are talking to equals to going fishing with dynamite. Yes, you’ll catch some, but you will have wasted a lot of energy and time.
If you do research first and you focus on finding out what moves or interests the person you are trying to connect with, then all you need is to share it. But will that person find it interesting or moving? The truth is you have no way of knowing it and yet, you can anticipate a positive response up to a certain degree.
How do you determine if the information you’ll be sharing can be of any use to your audience? You’ve done the research, and you’ve browsed for the information you think they’ll like. You might have even tried out authoring something as well but before sharing the doubt rises. Will it be enough to connect?
Before I post or share anything before I comment or like anything someone else posted I ask myself a simple question: what’s my intent?
Engaging is about creating a connection. It doesn’t matter if you already have a relationship with the person or people you are trying to reach to. You need to ask yourself: what do you want them to feel like, or to do with the content you share? Are you aiming to create interest, shock, a positive nod? Do you know what moves them, or what spikes their interest? Are you planning on becoming a trusted advisor?
Deciding what content is relevant to them is what gives you the true possibility of engagement.
To initiate or to maintain
This part is rather obvious, but it is worth spending some time going through it though. The reason is simple: starting a relationship is not the same as maintaining one. I know it reads and sounds too basic and yet you would be surprised to know how many people don’t see the difference. To keep in in very simple terms:
To initiate a relationship through LinkedIn means getting someone to answer back to you. You are starting the conversation, the one that will open up all other talks. This is the most delicate conversation you can start with someone because you are asking them to let you in.
To maintain a relationship then is simply to start a conversation. That means that you have already been admitted as a valuable connection, someone who can start any conversation at this point. Choose wisely though; any awkward conversation can break a connection.
Not every piece of content you share works the same way. Keep in mind what your true intent is and if that’s clear, proceed to engage.
The most critical part of it all. You connect for a reason, that reason being starting a business conversation with someone at least when it comes to using LinkedIn of course. You want to be regarded as a person with whom making business is both simple and fruitful.
Your ultimate goal when engaging is to either a) create a new relationship or b) exploit one you already have. You only get to do it though if you do it right.
Your personal brand comes to play here, not just the content you pick and you how you use it to communicate with others. If you are trying to create a new relationship, it is important that your profile looks the best. If it’s a conversation with someone that already knows you that you’re trying to start, it is important they remember why talking to you is of value to them.
Relationships do matter, which is why engaging should be more than just a task for you. Spending enough time getting to know your prospects and tailoring the content to their interests will help connect.
Sending out an invite won’t really allow you to connect. Engaging will.
(*) For more information on The Quiet Revolution, please visit their site at www.quietrev.com
This is the third article in a series of four that I will publish on the four pillars of LinkedIn’s SSI. All four articles can be found in the ITIWITIS blog.