Most of us have been "on the net" for more than a couple of decades, some even longer. Twenty years is not a very long period of time, unless you are only 16 years old and then it is more than a lifetime! The internet and its usefulness have come a long way in a very short period of time. Isn't it time you started to really take advantage of everything it has to offer? We want to help you leverage the internet focused on how "it" can help you grow your business. Let's first start off with the low hanging fruit; Are you using LinkedIn, Plaxo, Jigsaw, or Meetup? They each have their pluses and minuses, but depending on your needs, they can be great internet resources. Let's spend a couple of minutes talking about LinkedIn and Jigsaw. They are both sites that will allow you to create a profile and then search other people's profile. The focus for the most part is business oriented, although we have talked to a number of college students (smart ones) that have created profiles in LinkedIn in preparation for their job search. LinkedIn can be either a complete waste of time or a valuable resource; it all depends on how you use it. Here are a couple of recommendations:
Search for companies: If you have a target company in mind, search for people at that particular company, then see how closely you are connected to them. If you find that you are 2 or 3 degrees away, then we would suggest sending an e-mail or calling the person by whom you are linked to them. You can do the e-mail thing right in LinkedIn, but we think that contacting them through your normal e-mail is a better option, although a bit more work. Ask for an introduction. Now don't forget..."it is better to give than to receive." So when you ask for the introduction make sure that you offer to do the same for your contact, at the very least.
Get linked with others: We believe that there is a right and wrong way to do this. DON'T have LinkedIn search all of your contacts in Outlook and send them all an invitation to link with you. This just feels like spam to us, although it technically isn't. The better way to "connect" is to send an invitation to 4-5 people that you KNOW at a time. In the beginning, this may be 4-5 every other day and then it should taper off to 4-5 per week. What this does is keeps your activity "popping" up on the home page of those that you are linked to. It keeps you top of mind.
Now there are many other benefits of LinkedIn that we don't have room here to cover in detail, but these are some ideas:
review a book
ask a question
join a group or groups
update what you are working on
Moving on to Jigsaw. This is an interesting site that is what we would call an open source directory of business contacts. If you've ever used a mailing list service, then you have the idea behind Jigsaw. Basically, Jigsaw has millions of business contacts whose information was either uploaded by the actual contact or by someone who knows the contact. Now the second part of this upload equation is the interesting one. Let's say you meet someone at a party and you start talking about your professions. You then agree to exchange cards and perhaps sometime in the future you may get together. In the meantime, you could take the card and login to Jigsaw. You would then search Jigsaw to see if they existed in the database. If they were not in the database, you could add all of their pertinent information from their business card into Jigsaw. You can also update their information, if you have more current info. That is about it. Because of the method of updating information in Jigsaw, it has a higher likelihood to be current. Searching for contacts is very robust. You can search by company, title, name, category of job (C-level, VP, Manager, etc.), department, country, state, etc. Getting the details are a bit trickier. You have a couple of choices: you can either pay for a subscription (they have various levels depending on how many contacts you want to search per year) or there is a free offering that awards you points for providing contact information that can then be redeemed for information on contacts that you don't already know.
It doesn't provide you with the possibility of a warm introduction like is possible with LinkedIn, but it does get you current information on millions of people. Whatever you decide to do, one thing is certain, doing something is better than just watching from the sidelines. Check these web sites out and decide for yourself.