Think of social media like you would any other business event where you meet other professionals in your line of work or complementary business. How you behave at a networking event is pretty much how you should on social media: a mix of friendly chat, brainstorming and business. It’s too easy when you sit at a keyboard to forget that the person reading your posts, tweets or updates are people too. It’s wise to remember that words spoken (in this case typed) in anger or frustration are publicly visible on the social network in question.

Never allow yourself show negativity when using social media for business.

By following this simple rule, you will achieve a much higher level of networking than if you were to gripe and moan about every little niggle, setback or perceived slant you encounter online. Remember too, that words can be misconstrued and that’s why someone with great wisdom invented those little emojis that make updates so much fun.

The precautionary rules don’t stop at being positive. Avoid gossip like the plague. No one wants to do business with someone they can’t trust, so if you earn a reputation as a gossip the chances are you’ll never find worthwhile business partners.

Don’t rant about competitors in a public space, and don’t do the opposite either. No one will respect a self-appointed fanboy (or fangirl) who just hangs out at their profile page like it’s the lap of God.

So, you’re upbeat, positive and ready to mingle – now you just need to approach a few others at the party. But who should you connect with?

Luckily, online it’s a lot easier to figure out who has influence than it is in real life. Rolexes can be faked, tuxedos can be hired for one night only, but true online statistics don’t lie.

Before we find the top people in our industry, it’s important to understand what keywords we will use to search for them. This applies context to our search. There’s little point in connecting with indoor heating specialists if we are an ice cream company. Context is everything.

Let’s take a look at six sites which allow you measure your potential joint venture partners’ sphere of influence so that you can figure out whether you are a good match for business.

We want to determine who the influencers are in our industry for two reasons: to get them to follow us back, and to connect with their followers.

Here are six (of many) ways we can find influencers:

  1. Twitter.com – search for your keywords and use the Riffle Chrome extension to view the number of followers each prospect has
  2. Buzzsumo.com – search for your keyword and check the ‘influencers’ tab for the people whose posts have been shared the most for your keyword
  3. Klout.com – Explore your topic and the top influencers’ Twitter accounts will appear down the side of the page to your right. You can even follow them without leaving Klout.
  4. Wefollow.com – Simply search your interest and you will find the most prominent people on Twitter.
  5. Followerwonk.com – Another Twitter search engine, this one shows those who have tweeted your keyword, how many tweets they have tweeted, how many people they follow, number of followers they have and a score of their social authority marked out of 100.
  6. Google Plus – Circlecount.com is an awesome tool. You’ll need to start your research elsewhere, but when you want to check up on whether a person is active on Google+ you can find some great info here such as how many users are in the circles they share to.

Regardless of niche or platform, you can instantly spot the people who are serious because they always have a complete profile.

Gathering your list of influencers is the first step, next comes outreach. We need to build a real relationship with those people. Notice I said “real relationship.” This is what social media marketing is about: building relationships, not yelling “buy my stuff, buy my stuff” or trying to trick people into something they wouldn’t normally want to be a part of. Remember the analogy at the start – where we are using social media in the same way as we would press the flesh at a real world networking event or party?

Starting with sites like Twitter is fine, but short updates and tweets aren’t big relationship builders. They do allow people get an idea of who you are and what you are about so that they can choose to deepen the relationship on a site like Facebook or Google+.

Here’s how to catch their attention:

Add value to the relationship. Don’t try to create a friendship just to get something out of it. Do it to help other people. Doing so will demonstrate that you know your stuff and are willing to help others out without being one of those people who will only ever do something if someone pays them.

Be creative. If an influencer doesn’t understand something that you do, find imaginative ways to help them understand. You need to stand out in someone’s mind to move from a name on the screen to a real person at the other end of an email or phone line.

Don’t make it all about business. Try to find common ground with your prospect. Most of us take kindly to people who share our passions and if that means you both share a love of 1950s tin car toys, it engenders an “us against the world” instant camaraderie.

Respect other people’s time. Just because someone has had a degree of success in their field doesn’t mean they owe you a free consultation.

Enthusiasm is contagious. If you can be positive about your message and give more than you take, just as in real life, you will attract others to you on social media.

PS – If you have read this far, feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn, to many I am what is known as an influencer, so start your influencer marketing by connecting with me… let’s see how you can build the relationship.

How to Connect with the Right People on Social Media
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