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A Network Can Make A Huge Difference.

I've talked with a number of small business owners and marketing professionals in large corporations and they concur, a network is a powerful tool and can make a huge difference for your business.

In today's highly networked world it really doesn't matter if you have the network yourself, or if you're connected to a network in some way. The important thing you need to know is how to engage the people, resources and expertise within the network to advance your cause, while at the same time, delivering value to the network(s) you're a part of and support.

In this post, I am going to focus on a five part process I've used to help others understand how to become A STAR networker. I'm living proof. I'm a networker, promoter, advisor, owned a consulting firm and now work in a large enterprise and I can trace back every successful opportunity I've been associated with to networking. Over the years, the networks I've been a part of and the technology utilized have changed, but the basics are still the same.

What is "A STAR™?

A STAR is an acronym for Assess, Strategy, Tactics, Actions and Results. I use it mostly as a way for me to remember my model. It really makes it easy to describe my process and to help educate and train people and businesses on how to generate leads, build brand awareness, educate the market, build market share. All while having fun.

A - stands for ASSESS.

Assess where you are today. Ask yourself, "Are the networks both face-to-face and social media networks right for me personally and right for my business?" "What's working?" "What's not?" What should I focus on as areas for improvement?" Then the biggest question as a follow up to all of these is WHY? "Why these networks? Are there others better suited?" Why is it working?, Why do these areas need improvement? Why are others not working? Many times I talk to people and they often tell me they spend little or no time assessing. Their excuse is they do not have enough time, or they need to move forward quickly. I would argue, if you made wrong decisions in networking before, more than likely you will continue to repeat what you did before and get the same results. I have to stress that this is one of the most important steps to becoming A STAR because it sets you up to build a better networking and social networking strategy going forward.

S-stands for Strategy.

Define your strategy up front based on your assessment and document it. Everyone's strategy will be different based on what your trying to achieve. For a new business you may use networking and social networking to build brand awareness and generate leads. For an existing business you may want to diversify your offering, position yourself differently, launch a new product, open new markets or focus on becoming the leading provider of your service. It's important to define the objectives and the metrics you will use to determine how successful you are at executing your strategy. Objectives and metrics can be focused on an increase in sales, leads generated, volume of traffic, inquiries, referrals, recommendations, recognition, mentions, or awards.

Your strategy has to be meaningful, achievable, clearly stated, measurable, and agreed upon by the team that will execute against it. If one or all of these items listed above are misunderstood or loosely defined I would advise you to revise the strategy, objectives and metrics before moving forward.

T- stands for Tactics.

Tactics are the defined people, actions, and tools you deploy to achieve your objective. In social media, there are four ingredients necessary to become A STAR™ in social networking.

BUILD A NETWORK

First if you do not have a social network, you need to establish and build one. This can take months and even years in some cases. Be patient, plan your work, and work your plan. Attend social events you can find on Meetup or join a local AMSpirit group.

BUILD PLATFORMS

Create profiles, pages, and even groups on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. You may even want to create profiles and a resume and use Plaxo or VisualCV.

ASK FOR HELP

As someone new to the groups and or platforms above, I would recommend you attend a few meetings, create a few platforms and meet people who are already connected and ask them for help. Tell them what your strategy is, what you're trying to do and you will be surprised at how many people are willing to help connect you to "The Connected."

ENGAGE AND OUTREACH

In the early stages of building your network I would connect with bloggers who are looking for other people to write blog posts on their existing site. There are many blogs that invite guest bloggers to contribute. Search for relevant blogs in your space using Google's Blog Search or Technorati. Read and comment on the blogs that align with your strategy and connect with the blog owner. Offer to write and promote their platform and content.

START YOUR OWN BLOG

Start your own blog. Use blogging tools like Blogger, WordPress or TypePad. A variety of platforms are available and you can compare features and find out what works best for you.

CREATE A MESSAGE

Write about your business, your specialty, or the industry. Keep it relevant - Do not oversell or over promote. Focus on education, recommendations, or support, recognize and enable change. When people comment, reply back.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A CONVERSATION

Social media is all about conversations. One-way conversations are never beneficial. Reference other bloggers sites and content. Promote what you like across your other platforms and many bloggers and social media elite will return the favor.

A- stands for Action.

You can talk, and plan, and strategize, but, without action you will not see results. I like the Nike tag line when it comes to this part. "Just Do It." Sure you'll miss things, make mistakes, fail a few times, but you can say to yourself 'I Did It." It's good to create a reputation as someone who can get things done. There are a lot of talkers, there are fewer people who Do.

R- stand for Results.

Based on the strategy, your goals and objectives, and the tools you choose, there are many ways to measure your success. If you're using Twitter, create, use and communicate to everyone to use hash tag (#) or pound sign as some call it so all updates can be easily searched and referenced. I was also recently made aware of Techrigy or Radian6. Sign up and try it out www.techrigy.com from SM2 - and you can get a demo of Radian6 to see if it's something you're interested in. With both these solutions you can track keywords, campaigns, sentiments, and trends associated with content on your platforms.

You can also track success the old fashion way. Create promotions and post them on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, MySpace. Tell people to print off a tweet, or a coupon to bring into a location for a discount, or to enter to receive what ever you're offering. (You need to promote the heck out of this to
make it work. Not just once. You have to promote five or six times over many days so that everyone can see the offer. Promote it online and offline, social media and traditional media.

Conduct pulse metric surveys on twitter. Are you coming to the event? Are they satisfied, excited, or dissatisfied, unhappy or just neutral with the experience? The easiest way to measure your success on social media platforms is growing your followers and friend in the market you serve.

What's Your Process To Become A STAR?

I'm sure you have ideas, suggestions, tactics and more to share. Please comment, share this post with others and help me spread the word(s) A STAR.

If I can be of assistance in your efforts to become A STAR™ let me know. I hope you found this post helpful and you forward to the world. Stay tuned for more ideas from Dan. As my friends, family and co-workers can attest to. "I am full of them."

Dan Harris

danharris@danonit.com

Blog: www.danonit.com (Social Media, Branding, Marketing Start-ups)
Twitter: www.twitter.com/8101Harris

A STAR™ is the idea and the property of Dan Harris and Danonit

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Comment by Bob Gray on February 9, 2009 at 10:53am
Hi Dan,

Great blog! I am just starting this whole process for my business. I have some questions, you have used some terminology like Plaxo or VisualCV and Techrigy or Radian6 where can I get help understanding this terms and help with these terms? You also mentioned "I would recommend you attend a few meetings" where would I go for such meetings? I look forward to hearing from you.
www.nhtpc.som

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