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People You Want To Add To Your Social Network
In Sales, there are only two…

I often see salespeople and marketers brag about how many people they have on their social networking sites… They have 500+ connections on LinkedIn, 1,000 Facebook friends, 5,000 Twitter followers, and no more sales than they had in 2005 with none of that.

If you are in business, sales specifically, there are only two types of people you want to add to your social network: Customers & Referral Partners

Think about it. 

  • If they can’t buy from you, or they can’t or don’t want to refer you, then why are you connected?
  • If you don’t know them, why would you add them?
  • If you can’t refer them or buy from them, why would they want to add you?
  • If you have never had a conversation in real life, what are they chances you will do business together in the future?
As a social media expert, I will add any personal friends I keep in touch with on Facebook. However, I am more concerned about my professional appearance and associations on LinkedIn. You are judged by the company you keep, so keep it classy on LinkedIn. On Twitter, you don’t have to be associated, so anyone can follow you, but watch who you follow back. I find it a lot easier to see important updates from clients and referral partners if they are not lost in a stream of who had what for lunch or what Justin Bieber did today.

Customer Connections

I highly recommend connecting with clients on LinkedIn. I would let them choose to follow you on a Facebook business page or Twitter account if they choose, though. LinkedIn allows you to see who else may be an ideal client for you that they know, plus you will typical see any important business updates or status changes. Don’t you want to know when that Purchasing Agent changes jobs?
The issue for most people comes in trying to add prospects. From my experience, very few of these potential clients convert, and a year later you wonder how that person got connected in the first place. I would accept invitation from prospects, but I would not request the connection. Wait until you get the first order or at least a working off-line relationship before you go initiating the connection. 
Two more things. You may want to request an introduction through a mutual friend on a social network to get the ball rolling if you don’t know someone, but I recommend calling the friend and asking for a personal introduction first. Also, you may want to leverage prospects early for referrals. If they don’t have their connection public, you will have to add them to see who they could introduce you too, but make sure you have at least a working relationship first.

Referral Partners

Referral Partners are ideal for social networking. Really, the basis for social networking is to give and get referrals to businesses, people, and things that your networking recommends.
Again for business purposes, LinkedIn is the best network for leveraging referral relationships. Most strategic alliances and referral partners don’t want to see the family pics on Facebook, but they are interested in your new product announcement, new hire, or press release. 
Referrals are the reason, I am extremely picky about who I connect with on LinkedIn. If you ever get the chance to peek at my connections. I will gladly refer you to anyone in that list. I am also careful to only add people that I know, like and trust in real life. This means that if you want a referral, I usually have their cell phone and email and they will take my call.
For those of you still blindly adding everyone that will have you on LinkedIn, can you say the same about your list of connections. If you really have 500+ clients and referral partners, you should be selling at record paces and dominating your market…

Now assuming you actively seek out and build more relationships in 2013, why couldn’t you do just that?