The (Virtual) Coffee Network: Connecting through Social, Digital Dialogue

So, the shoe ended up on the other foot this week.  Usually, it's our job to get our clients on the media radar.  However, our rock star social media colleague, Maria Dykstra of TreDigital, invited us to co-author an article on virtual networking and digitally-driven media outreach for Seattle Angel Network.

Happy to share these key tips and insights from our collaborative writing venture!

The Virtual Coffee Networking Strategy

Are you taking your networking to the next level, by making connections without leaving your home?

e’re not talking about a phone call, although a very productive Skype, Facetime or old-fashioned telephone call can be an outcome of your successful at-home networking strategy.To kick things off, let us know when was the last time you had a conversation with someone on Twitter? Many of you are saying: “Never”, right?

The truth is, we spend hundreds of hours a year at meetups and other networking events and completely ignore one of the most powerful networking mediums: social media.

Yes, social media can be confusing, but it is powerful. With social media a person can be anywhere at any time, quite literally. You can strike a conversation with anyone anytime, and many times get an appreciative response.

And, don’t think we’re advocating that you completely stop going to networking events. Rather, think about social media as a logical extension of everything you do.

If you are among those who said never to social media networking because it seemed so time-intensive, try this:  set aside 15 minutes tomorrow. As you grab your first cup of beverage of your choice, head to Twitter and try to connect with one of the following segments of the social community:

Connect with your customers:

In addition to gaining amazing customer insight and validating your ideas on social media, you can start building a tribe of loyal fans for your product. After all, people love to be personally involved and there is no more personal medium than social media.

If you are unsure where to start, go to Hootsuite and create a stream with the keywords your customers would be using. Create a “stream” using these keywords. Spend a few minutes liking and replying to some of the tweets you see related to your topics.

Following some of the Twitter users and asking them a direct question is also a tactic that works great in gauging how “sticky” your idea is. One of the best ways to find followers is by looking at some of the top leaders in your industry and identifying who follows them… Which brings us to the next step….

Connect with thought leaders:

Thought leaders command attention of your customers on social media. A mere comment on your Tweet may be perceived as an endorsement of your product. Better yet, if you build initial connection with the thought leaders (investors, potential mentors, partners, etc), you can make it easier for you to approach them later with an ask.

Google “top 10 influencers in x industry” (insert your industry). Find their Twitter handle and add them to a Twitter list. Add the list to Hootsuite and reply or retweet some of the comments and conversations.  If you actually click on the link, read their latest content, and respond.

Bonus tip: find out which events and conferences they are attending. Pay attention to the hashtags used for these conferences and retweet/like a few tweets with one of the hashtags.

Connect with journalists

Everyone in the startup world is seeking reporters’ attention, but only a few are successful. Network digitally first: journalists have no time for crackers and cheese!

Use Muckrack to find trending journalist coverage and commentary. Once you have a list of reporters in mind, you can start building relationship with them: Remember, you’ll connect with them and their readers.  How to do this?  NOT by showing up and asking for coverage (you know your parents raised you to be more polite than that).  Be helpful:  share their stories on social, comment on their stories (both on the blog and social media), suggest sources and stories that are not about you – be a helper first. 

Once you get to know them, deliver value: include them on the Twitter that offer insight research, opinion on trending topics or prediction on future trends.  When you are ready to move to the next step (better done in email!), be ready with images, research and quotes. 

Just think, over a cup of coffee, you, your computer and social accounts can make connections that are insightful, interesting, and possibly a conduit to a valuable business, partner or media coverage opportunity.

PS:  For your first social task, how about connecting with the writers of this article?  @Tredigital and@Pam_A.  Let’s hashtag this as a #GreatPlaceToStart.

Posted by Josh Maher at 1:51 PM