I will be honest with you when I tell you that I created the concept of “Windmill Networking” after I began writing the LinkedIn book which would become known as “Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn.” I created the concept at first to demystify online social networking and use it as a tool to lead people into being more open to networking outside of their “physical network” both on LinkedIn and other social networking platforms as well as offline. But as I speak to more companies and professionals, I am realizing that the concept has far more significance for an important reason: understanding Windmill Networking and the Social Web is the key to understanding how to be successful in Social Media Marketing. Let me explain.
You can read my full description of Windmill Networking if you download the first few chapters of my book here. In essence, Windmill Networking is about understanding the value of Digging Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, Paying It Forward, and the value in building up a virtual Trusted Network of Advisors. It is about embracing the opportunities that the Social Web and social networking sites like LinkedIn have provided us: an opportunity to connect and develop relationships with like-minded people for our mutual future benefits. Windmill Networking is about Plugging Yourself Into the Grid that is social media, and once you do, your windmill (= you) can now both share and receive energy from other people that you are virtually connected to whether or not you personally know them. It is a powerful thing only possible within the past few years, and it is to everyone’s advantage to absolutely embrace this and Windmill Network. If you understand the future potential value about being a LinkedIn LION, you are undoubtedly already Windmill Networking.
So what does Windmill Networking have to do with the Social Web and its relation to Social Media Marketing?
Social Media is about communicating and developing relationships with people in the Social Web. The Social Web is OUR web, content created by people like you and me, supplemented by internet platforms that allow us to easily publish and share this content while helping us communicate and develop relationships with each other. In this world, businesses need to learn to become a networker and communicator to engage in conversations with participants, “The Influencers” being the most important people. Companies need to be Windmill Networking, developing new relationships on a virtual and global scale. Just as we as individuals need to be Digging Our Well Before We are Thirsty and engaging with others online globally, companies also need to be existent in the Social Web and developing relationships with people that could also become future customers, partners, and even employees. Just as we become found when we create profiles on social networking sites, companies can now be found in a new way when they share information on these same sites. But, most importantly, just as it’s not just the people we meet but potentially their connections that could provide value to us, the people businesses engage with on the Social Web may become their best type of advertising, or what I would call Viral “Windmills” Marketing: Windmills now virally generating energy on your behalf because you Paid It Forward in some way.
A great case in point: yesterday I held a seminar on Social Media 101 for Business. I used one of my favorite social media success story examples from You Tube of Blendtec and their “Will it Blend?” series of videos showing the CEO blending bizarre items. Of course, the famous one here is when they listened to their audience and blended their first iPhone. They created a video that was both informative and entertaining, and news of it spread like wildfire. Not only did their understanding of the Social Web lead them to create this successful social media marketing strategy, but by listening to their fans they were able to further increase their marketing efforts. All for the cost of buying an iPhone and shooting a video. In case you haven’t seen this video, here it is for your viewing pleasure:
Not only did many people share this information to help spread the news, just the fact that I am writing about this in my blog is giving Blendtec free advertising. It is as if I am a Blendtec sales representative. And that is the potential power of the relationships that businesses can make with people on the Social Web by providing something that is informative, educational, entertaining, and not merely self-promoting.
At the end of the day, it is about sharing something that is of value. And just as Paying It Forward in Windmill Networking amongst professionals is important, Businesses Paying It Forward to gain mindshare in the Social Web by sharing or providing something of value is essential for any enterprise to start joining the conversation that is the Social Web.
What are your favorite social media success stories? Who’s products are you subconsciously advertising when you are sharing links or videos?