How to use social media for networking and generate leads

How do you get through to busy people on social media and start building those all important relationships? Use the cocktail party rule...

social media for networking

We often talk about using social media as a marketing tool, but doing business is all about building relationships with individuals. If you aren’t using social media for networking then you could be missing out on hundreds of potential leads.

An old saying still rings true: people buy from people.

In today’s digital world there are so many automation tools out on the market that receiving hundreds of unsolicited messages a day isn’t uncommon. So how do you actually get through to busy people on social media and start building those all important relationships?

When delivering this message I always refer back to the classic scenario of a cocktail party. If you were at a cocktail bar on a Friday night you wouldn’t walk up to somebody and blurt out what you do, what your business sells and how amazing your product is all within the space of 30 seconds.

So just because you’re behind a screen, it doesn’t mean you should adopt that approach to communicating with other people. Social media is an amazing tool, but so many people forget the critical word – ‘social’.

READ MORE: Social media and SEO: The busy marketer’s guide

If you’re the one initiating the conversation, you need to be interested in finding out about the person you’re contacting. Remind yourself how annoying it is to receive a cold call asking if you’ve been in a car accident. The same applies to social media networking – forcing your product or service down someone’s throat will be just as frustrating as a cold sales call (albeit easier to ignore).

That said, there’s no guarantee of success. You could spend hours composing the perfect message only for your approach to fall on deaf ears simply because the individual is too busy to read it properly.

There are a couple of techniques you can use to improve your chances, however.

1. Read bios carefully: Social media bios may be brief, but they usually include a few key details of an individual’s professional and/or personal life. This is a fantastic place to start when thinking about relevant information to discuss with the individual.

2. Review their posting history: Most likely people will post about topics close to their heart. This a great way to gain even more detail to cultivate your initial message.

A fantastic example of these two in action is as follows:


Director, Manchester United fan, Dad and coffee lover (but not necessarily in that order).


27th August: ‘What a fantastic goal by Lukaku!’

27th August: ‘We are going to win the league!’

19th August: ‘Check out an event I am speaking at on the 4th September in Dublin. Link below.’

21st August: ‘Watching the youngest at ballet class #sundaymorning #needcoffee’

Okay, so you wouldn’t be able to write a biography about this person, but you’ve got several potential hooks to include in your opening gambit. You can now sculpt your message to ensure it is as compelling as possible.

An example would be:

Hi Gary – How are you doing? I noticed you’re a big Manchester United fan, what a fantastic result on the weekend! I’m interested to hear more about the event you’re speaking at in Dublin – I’d love to hear both yours and the rest of the panel’s thoughts on advertising in the future.

Some people may look at this message and think it’s a bit full on for an initial introduction. But it’s important to remember that people love it when you show an interest in them and their passions. They naturally want to chat about them.

They could be having the day from hell at work but will be much more likely to get back to you if you’ve reminded them about what makes them tick.

Give it a go. Get interested in people. Happy networking!

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