Sven Johnston–Gigasavvy’s Senior Vice President, handler of business development and new business, and super connector extraordinaire. Sven’s talent lies in his ability to meet, mingle, and network. Not to mention, he seems to be friends with everyone (seriously, is there anyone left who doesn’t know Sven yet?). But a savvy networker, connector, and friend-everyone-wants are not what Sven has always been.
The Evolution of Sven
Back in June 2009, Sven had 170 LinkedIn connections and only 10 Facebook friends. Pretty sad, right? Now Sven has over 10,000 LinkedIn connections and is gaining more all the time. He also runs two LinkedIn Groups: We Are Orange County (8000+ members) and OC Connectors (1000+ members) and has over 700 Facebook friends. So how did Sven grow from zero to networking hero? Here he shares his tips to turn an introvert, or anyone needing a little help in the schmoozing department, into a super connector (sorry, there’s no cape).
Grow Your Online Presence
First, make sure your profile is complete and professional. A thoughtfully filled out profile is essential. LinkedIn even has a handy gauge you can see on the right-hand side of your profile that shows how complete it is. Remember, on LinkedIn, you are the brand. Choose a profile photo that represents you in the best possible way professionally. Vacation photos and selfies probably aren’t going to be the image you want to portray. You’ll definitely want to claim your LinkedIn vanity URL, as well. Use your profile title as your branding message, and spend some quality time on your summary, as well as your skills & expertise section. LinkedIn offers the ability to add rich media to your profile such as links, videos, photos, and other attachments. Take advantage of it.
Now that you’re ready to face the public, it’s time to start making connections. Make every invitation to connect personal, even people you know very well. Be active on LinkedIn. Post, comment, and share other people’s posts. Just remember that LinkedIn is not the same as your personal Facebook feed. Share stories that are relevant or useful to your professional network. Keep the dog memes to Facebook (or send them to us, because we love memes). Join some LinkedIn Groups and actively participate. LinkedIn Groups are also a great way to make some connections outside of your current “bubble”.
Once you have some connections, you can reach out and ask for recommendations from your colleagues and peers. Make sure only to ask for recommendations from people you know really well or have actually worked with. Asking strangers for recommendations is ineffective at the least and borders on creepy at the worst. Don’t be that guy.
Facebook is more casual than LinkedIn, so a formal greeting is not necessarily required or expected every time you connect with someone. However, if you’re sending a friend request to your old college advisor you haven’t spoken to in years, it’s probably a good idea to at least drop a hello in their messenger inbox.
The best way to stay “top of mind” on Facebook is the same as LinkedIn–be active, and engage with others. There are many professional groups on Facebook to join, though it can be a little harder to find them. Utilize Facebook’s search tool, and ask your colleagues what groups they may be a part of. Even if they don’t have any suggestions, it’s one way to start a conversation.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Remember, you’re the brand here. Like any good brand manager, you will want to monitor your online reputation. Utilize Google Alerts to monitor your name, the name of your company, and the names of business partners if applicable. The key to getting ahead of any bad PR is first knowing about it. But don’t forget to interact with and engage with the positive stuff, too.
To set yourself for having a positive reputation online, remember only to post something you would be okay with the entire world seeing. Privacy settings are one thing, but you never know if someone might take a screen capture. If you wouldn’t want it repeated, don’t post it. Refrain from posting content that could be polarizing, such as religion and politics, unless that actually is your personal brand.
Attend as Many Networking Events as Possible
Sven stresses the importance of attending lots of events, even if you don’t want to. And trust, Sven lives by this. The man’s calendar is timed down to the minute most of the time. As an introvert, most of the time you probably won’t want to go to these events. Do it anyway. Remember, worst case scenario you probably still get a drink and chips. Sven recommends attending at least 2-4 events per month, but to go to as many as your schedule allows. We’re all busy people, but if you want to network with the best of them, you have to make the time. Networking is an investment in yourself and your career; it’s worth it.
Not sure where the best events are? Ask your connections. Heck, if you’re in Orange County, ask Sven. He’s friendly. When attending an event, always bring plenty of business cards. It’s 2016, but business cards are still a networking essential. You should always have several of them handy. Arrive at the event early, and stay until the end. Lastly, don’t judge a networking event on your first try. Try an event a few times before you decide if it’s worth continuing to attend that series.
Remember These Networking Do’s and Don’ts
When you are networking, do make sure to ask a lot of questions. Remember, people like talking about themselves, particularly their work. Try to be helpful rather than see what you can get out of everyone you meet. Do remember that networking can happen anywhere. Waiting at an airport, sitting at a bar, or grabbing a quick bite at a restaurant are all scenarios where networking can happen. In fact, those scenarios are easy and comfortable situations where the “pressure to network” isn’t as heavy. It can be good practice! What’s the worst thing that could happen?
There are also a few things you want to make sure you avoid while getting your network on. The number one thing to remember is, don’t try to sell. “Hi, my name is Linda, and I work at a mortgage firm,” is way more approachable than “Hi, my name is Linda, have you thought about refinancing lately?” Nobody likes being approached that way, and for the most part, nobody likes approaching people that way. It’s awkward and forced. Don’t be that guy either. If you go to an event with a friend, make sure you split up and work the room separately. Do not spend too much time with someone you already know. Why? You already know them! The point of a networking event is to talk to people you don’t know. Sven also reminds us that we should never expect business to come from a first-degree connection. More often than not, it’s someone in your network who knows someone who needs your help, and they make the connection later.
Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!
We cannot stress this enough. Sven says that networking is 10% of the effort, and the other 90% is following up. Meet someone interesting at an event? Schedule a time later when you can meet up for coffee. Try to schedule at least 1-2 of those types of meetings a week. Don’t look for ways to sell these connections. Look for ways thou might be able to help them. Approach every meeting with the goal of creating a long-term business relationship rather than a quick buck. Be persistent, and don’t take no for a final answer. Someone who doesn’t think they need your services right now might need them six months from now, or even a year from now.
Stay Visible and Stay in Touch
Staying in touch and staying “visible” in someone’s social networking feeds are essential. Sven likes to play a game he calls phone roulette, where when he has some spare time he just picks a random person to call. It doesn’t have to be about business. Just say hello, how are you, ask how the kids are, or how golf is going. Use those handy LinkedIn notifications like birthdays and new job announcements as a reason to reach out to your network. You’ll have to figure out a method that works for you, whether it’s setting a specific time each day that you have for networking, or another system that works for you.
Getting out there and networking as an introverted person is not easy. You’ll have to go against all of your instincts and do something completely outside of your comfort zone. The best piece of advice we have is borrowed from Nike: just do it. Like anything outside of your comfort zone, the more you go, the easier it will get. If you know that talking to strangers all night will exhaust you, plan ahead–leave yourself 30 minutes to decompress and read a book to unwind and recharge after the event. And every time you find yourself coming up with an excuse to skip an event, stop and think of all of the possible rewards. You’ll be networking like a superstar in no time; you got this.
Follow Gigasavvy on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/gigasavvy