Here’s How to Build Your Client Base From Existing Social Networks
A moment of silence for SociLab . . . the networking map generator we used to rely on in our 7-Day Setup: A Travel Agency Challenge. But SociLab is no longer, so in the spirit of entrepreneurship, we decided to roll up our sleeves and make our own networking worksheet.
While this exercise will help you discover avenues you may not have considered to develop a client base, it will not help you visualize all your connections. If you want a complex visual rendering of your social network, you can give Gephi a go.1
However, this exercise will support you to hone your niche and find potential groups (if that’s your jam). Basically, it will help you find some of the greatest common denominators among your friends, groups (online and IRL), and interests. We all knit! We all love hedgehogs! We all participate in fencing classes! We’re all obsessed with Game of Thrones! We all studied abroad in Ireland 15 years ago! (etc.)
So download the worksheet below and we'll begin, shall we?
Step 1: Export your data on LinkedIn & Facebook
Exporting your friend/connection list on Facebook and LinkedIn will give you the raw material you’ll want to start with for this exercise.
LinkedIn and Facebook are two good social platforms to start. Why? LinkedIn will cater to your more professional connections, and Facebook will cater to more personal relationships as well as group and event activity.
Exporting your lists is easy. You can do this. How do I know that? Because I could do it. I’ll walk you through the steps below, but if you’re more of a visual person, you can hop on down to the video Bridget put together!
How to Export Your LinkedIn Connections:
Step 1: Click on "Me" in the top bar. Then Select "Settings & Privacy"
Step 2: Scroll down and click "Download Your Data" (or click here for a shortcut)
Step 3: Click “pick and choose” to select data files you’re most interested in and select “Connections”
How to Export Your Facebook Connections:
I’m not going to lie. In my humble opinion, downloading your FB friend list isn’t altogether helpful because it won’t cross reference your friends’ with any helpful information like job, location, shared groups etc. It’s really just a list of names. This can be particularly hard if you have a lot of friends.
However, looking at your groups, events, invites and who you follow (as well as who follows you), is better info in terms of helping you determine a niche and figuring out creative avenues to pursue building your client base. So there’s that!
Here we go!
1. Go to “Settings” (It’s under the drop down arrow on the top right)
2. Click on “Your Facebook Information” on right sidebar (or click here for a shortcut)
3. Click on “Download Your Information”
4. Select “Friends, Groups, Events, Following/ Followers”
You will need to deselect all the other options, which will give you a lot of unruly data. I like these 4 selections because it naturally reflects where you’ll find your networks . . . in groups, events, followers, and friendships (whether they’re real or virtual).
See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Once you have your info downloaded, you’ll have a wealth of data!
Step 2: List Your Most Active Groups & Events from Facebook
1. Scan your FB “Groups list.”
Jot down about 3 groups you are most active in or would like to become more active in. You can probably skip Travel Agent groups, since other agents may not be a likely clientele for you :)
2. Add Groups you’re active in IRL:
You have already done this with your niche activity. But if you haven’t, you’ll want to include those groups on this list! For me it’s teaching, writing, & parent classes! Exercise groups are also a common one, but not for me!
Groups your kiddos belong to can be an extension of you if you’re involved in some way. They play soccer? There’s another group. They go to Sunday school? Don’t forget that. They’re involved in a teen manga club? Don’t forget that! You take your dog to an obedience class (yes, I consider my dog to be one of my children)! Check!
3. Cross reference your FB “Groups” list with your “Events”
What events are people inviting you to? Is there a unifying thread as to what kind of events they are? Do any of these events pertain more strongly to your groups? Which ones do you actually like to attend?
The key here is to find unifying factors between groups and events. For example, I noticed that I’m involved in a lot of groups and events relating to travel (obviously!), kids & parenting, literary arts, women-centered groups, LGBTQ groups, an alumnae group, and a family group. Unsurprisingly, my invites are usually for author readings and literary events, or kid play dates at breweries (more of those, PLEASE!).
The groups with the greatest concentration of intersections in terms of your participation and niche will be where you want to target your networking energies. It can also help with what kind of networking events you might want to plan. If I were a travel agent and I wanted to pitch or connect with a bunch of parents, I’d definitely plan a “Babies and Brew Night,” and buy them a few rounds of beer while myself—and possibly a Business Development Manager (BDM)—talk about a kid-friendly beer-tasting tour of Ireland during spring break.
Step 3: List Companies/ Organizations from Your LinkedIn List with Multiple Contacts:
One of things I love about LInkedIn’s data is that it gives you basic data on your connections. (That’s right, I’m throwing SHADE at you, FB!)
Just like FB’s data is a good source to where there’s the most intersection between your interests and participation socially, LinkedIn gives an opportunity to find some of these intersections professionally.
From your LinkedIn data:
1. Determine the popular types of occupations among your connections
To make this part easier, when you get the LinkedIn download, you can sort the professions in “ascending” or “descending” order so it will alphabetize your list. This way, you can see types of jobs held my multiple connections.
When I looked at my list, I realized that a lot of my connections were freelance writers, professors or educators, and travel people.
What do these trends among professions say about what type of travel might be best? For example, from my list, I would have potential clients who would likely need to work while they travel, or who'd need to travel primarily in the summer. What does it mean about why type of possible trips you might talk about in those circles. How does this type of travel align with your niche? This info could make me sound like a boss lady advisor expert when I qualify a trip for a client! Write this down!
2. Are there some major companies/organizations where you have multiple contacts?
LinkedIn’s list also offers data on where people work (though I believe it’s only where they work, currently). To find if there are any company trends you weren’t aware of, sort the column into “ascending” or “descending” order so it will group the company names.
Form the list, you might be surprised to find that you know several people who work for one company. Maybe you have a few friends who work at Best Buy or Wells Fargo. Whatever it may be, these could be great connections to investigate and see if they offer incentive travel to employees, or they might have other connections of coworkers who have expendable income and want to travel.
I want to also emphasize that “level” of position can mean very little. Sometimes when we think about networking, we might imagine trying to bump elbows with the bosses boss. But don’t forget that level of pay does not equate to level of influence. Don’t ignore anyone.
Step 4: Determine Most Common Cities where Your Contacts are Located:
So why are we doing this? Referrals have a ripple effect. In a “Successful Group and Contract Strategies” panel at the Travel Agent Forum, travel advisor Doug Colon joked that he had set up his marketing strategy like organized crime: having pied pipers (mob bosses, if you will) planted in major cities across the US to have a greater reach for his marketing efforts for group travel.
This will help you determine where you can plant your own “mob bosses,” and will help you simultaneously focus and expand your networking efforts.
Unfortunately, this information is not included on any of the exported lists. You might be able to scan your lists of friends and contacts to jog your memory. But you’ll really need to dig into your stores of knowledge to determine a few cities where you have strong connections.
If you are a travel agent, or if you’ve moved around a lot, you might have a longer list that me. But try to focus on a few cities where you have the most connections (you can start small and keep building).
Step 5: The Influencers
Hopefully by now, you’re really starting to get some ideas of how to focus your networking efforts. You have an idea of companies, cities, events, and groups that might help inform your engagement (and travel niche!).
Now, we’re going to focus on individual friends and connections and how they might intersect with these companies, places, groups etc.
Among your shortlist of cities, events, and groups consider who helps organize or make decisions about the group. This isn’t necessarily the group leader, but someone who is vocal and persuasive. For example, I am not an extrovert by any means. But when it comes to my extended family, you could consider myself or my sister-in-law an influencer and decision maker. If you want to get my family to go on a reunion and you got me excited about it, I’d be the one to spread that enthusiasm to my family and begin to organize us (even though we probably wouldn’t be footing the majority of the bill).
When you’re finding these 2-3 contacts or friends you may want to connect with consider:
- Their level of engagement in the group, event, or community
- Your connection to them
- Their level of influence within that circle (remember, money ≠ influence)
- Their passion for travel
- Do you “follow” them on FB? Do they “follow” you?
To find these people, you can scan your friend and connection list. Even if you can think of two or three people for every group, company, or city, you’re in pretty good shape! You don’t want to over-extend yourself.
Step 6: Where the rubber hits the road (action items)
I cringe when I say the word “sale.” But it’s not about you being a sales predator, trying to pick off unsuspecting prey. It’s really just not like that.
What it is about is building and reinforcing your personal and professional relationships. When you have these people in mind, it’s not about approaching them and making a cold sale. It’s really just about you being you, talking about what you love. If you love to travel (um, you’re a travel agent!) you should be talking about what makes you excited about when you travel. Not selling it to people, but getting people to open up and talk to YOU about their travel histories and plans too! People will be attracted to your passion and your enthusiasm, not a sales pitch.
If you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed by information, here’s a few possible action items to get your networking really going:
- Reach out to 5 people from your “influencer list” from different cities, companies, or groups. These are your inroads.
- If your budget allows, this year, plan a marketing event for a targeted group using the information you found above. If you can schedule this for when a BDM is coming your way, even better.
- If your budget doesn’t allow, increase your level of engagement among one of these groups. This doesn’t mean doing more, it just means really showing up and sharing your enthusiasm about travel with others.
- If your former university or college has an Alumni/ae magazine, be sure you share your professional news with them!
- This year, if you're attending a conference or visiting family in any of your “hot spot” cities, tack on a half day to connect with one of your influencers out there.
What are more action steps you can take? Comment below!
Congratulations! You’re on Your Way to Having a Marketing Strategy!
You’re probably thinking, but Mary, these are the things I always do! And that’s exactly what this is all about . . . becoming more intentional and focusing your efforts on the natural patterns and movements of your life to enrich your organic networking abilities.
Pat yourself on the back for working smarter instead of harder! Questions, comments or ideas? Comment below!
- I won’t be able to support you if you have questions about using Gephi. I found that the return on investment (ROI) in terms of the time it would take for me to learn to use it (Gephi is free) wasn’t worth the information it ultimately provides. However, you may find this is not the case for you! ↩