Six months ago I risked everything.
I arrived in San Francisco with almost no network.
I left my comfortable job consulting for lifestyle entrepreneurs and young, growing startups.
I left San Diego’s sun and ridiculously good-looking people.
I left my family, friends, and community.
I felt stuck. I wasn’t happy. I had to find something with a better, bigger purpose.
I knew as soon as my feet touched down in San Francisco, I would have to expand my network fast to avoid getting caught in a rut.
This meant meeting the right people, scouring Meetup and Eventbrite for entrepreneurial events, and saying “yes” to parties and bar hopping.
After a couple of months, I got bored. The Meetups I went to were full of people trying to sell me things. And I’m not a fan of bars and random parties. At the same time, my salary was about half of what I made in San Diego, and rent costs were shoveling money out of my paychecks.
Everything added up quickly and I realized I needed to make more money to support this networking lifestyle. I fell back on my best skillset, growth hacking social media.
This would include:
- A/B testing outreach methods through social channels
- A/B testing reward methods for people to hang out with me
- Figuring out how to automate successful strategies
Luckily for me, after the first several months at my job, I had automated most of my work. So, I had time to test. Many things worked, many failed. I tried everything – auto commenting on people’s Instagram profiles asking them to come to my Meetup, outsourcing scrapers to get in contact with the right people, and testing hundreds of different lines of copy.
After hitting enough walls, I made progress. I created one of the largest marketing Meetups in San Francisco and a great Facebook Group for my community.
At the end of six months, I had met over one thousand entrepreneurs.
These are the seven growth hacks I used to make it happen:
1. Facebook Friend Requests
Business cards? Are we in 2014?
Even the best-looking business cards aren’t taken seriously by many millennials anymore. Everything is going digital including how we exchange contact information in-person.
When I want to get in touch with someone, I take out my phone, open the Facebook app and add them as a friend. This takes about several seconds and here’s why it works like a charm for networking…
It’s now easy to add people to a Facebook Group at a later date.
Friends receive notifications of your content and also see it in their feed. So, once they add you, it’s almost impossible to remove you from their life unless they unfriend you.
By branding yourself on Facebook, they can have a more genuine and personal connection with you. In short, you can develop a better know, like, and trust factor with them faster.
Plus, you can see if they saw your direct messages and you can easily hop on a video call with them.
A couple of bonuses include that if they come to your events, you can take pictures with them, then tag them on Facebook. This provides an extra layer of community and social validation. Furthermore, if you share an upcoming event on Facebook, they may just see your post in their News Feed like the one below.
2. Throw Weekly Events
Create a Meetup and drive traffic to it. Next, find people who you’d think would be interested in your Meetup on Twitter. I suggest a tool called Audiense. They have a great discovery feature for finding people with similar interests. I used Twitter to gain most of my initial two-hundred Meetup members.
I also used Facebook Graph to find people who live in San Francisco and have many similar interests. Subsequently, I would friend these people, and then directly message them about the events I host. I suggest this Facebook Graph tool that makes searching for potential friends a breeze.
It’s not always easy. If you’re throwing weekly events and are short on cash, find a sponsor. Create email templates for reaching out, then use a CRM tool like Mixmax to schedule meetings easily and track your interactions with potential sponsors.
What now? Ensure each event is different regarding entertainment, whether that’s a speaker, DJ, or dance theme. As long as it’s quality entertainment with one or two surprises, you’ll keep your attendees happy.
Don’t forget to promote your event effectively with good email marketing. This means focusing on the benefit of attending and always including a couple of fun facts to make the email seem more personable. To make things easier, I use the same email format every week:
By providing a place where people can meet you in person and enjoy your company, you’ll naturally receive more referrals and introductions. And, if you run your event well, it will grow larger every week!
3. Drop Value Posts on Facebook
I do this every so often, and it works extremely well. I’ll give away something valuable for free. By valuable, I mean months of hard work or thousands of dollars invested into this valuable something. I ask people to comment on the post and directly message me to receive it.
I’ll also ask people to tag their friends. From a simple post, sometimes I’ll meet over fifty people:
Here’s why this works:
I provide a low-barrier to entry to contribute to the discussion – they know exactly what they have to do to receive the something. And I make the reward realistic and parallel to my personal brand. For example, I don’t say “you’ll receive a million dollars” because no one would believe me and it has nothing to do with my brand as a growth marketer.
I look on Quora and Amazon to figure out what a significant amount of my audience may want. Then, I end with a strong call-to-action that exemplifies confidence. This helps hype up the gift and gives the reader a strong feeling that they must take action now.
For best results, always set a deadline. It incentivizes people to take immediate action.
4. Join Conference Facebook Groups
Wouldn’t you love to connect with many high-level entrepreneurs? An easy way is to attend high-priced conferences that host Facebook Groups for the attendees.
You don’t want to friend hundreds of people manually. What you can do instead is use Mass Planner to export the list of people in that Facebook Group, then send them automated friend requests. You can even send an automated follow-up message once they accept, in order to open up the conversations with hundreds of influencers.
Here’s a quick look at Mass Planner’s Facebook features:
A funny example: I was on the attendee list for a conference called Hustle Con. Luckily for me, they had a Facebook Group. I used the automated friend request and messaging features to inform people about a Hustle Con pre-party I was holding.
I then used Mass Planner to identify any Twitter users tweeting @Hustle_says. From there, I set up an automated Twitter campaign to tweet at them about my pre-party.
With only a week and a half to promote, I was able to get around fifty attendees.
5. Write Engaging Content
Copywriting. Copywriting. Copywriting.
You need this skill.
Seriously. You REALLY need this skill.
Copywriting enables me to write great Facebook posts almost every day. These posts often receive shares and tags. In turn, people I don’t know reach out to me.
Moreover, I write about what I’m interested in, and I’m always giving great advice. By focusing on providing value in a genuine way, I establish and strengthen many relationships.
And if you can write Facebook posts that solve big problems, people will recommend that their friends who have those problems reach out to you.
6. Become the Go-To Resource
By putting yourself out there as an endless resource, people will put their friends in contact with you to help solve their problem(s). You can further convey yourself in this role by taking pictures with influencers, increasing your network size, and having many followers on your social channels.
All of these symbols reflect that you know people. When someone has a problem and their friends can’t help them, they’ll refer them to you, the guy who knows people.
Become that person.
Sometimes it requires you to stick your neck out and ask for help on social media. The willingness to ask for help puts you in a humble position, and you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to lend a hand.
7. Become Memorable and Open to Helping Others
Because I meet hundreds of people every month, I forget most of their names.
However, most people I meet remember my name.
I wear clothes that stand out – red jeans, red shoes, funky glasses.
I say things that stand out, “Marketing is lame. Giving is cool.”
And I immediately let people know that I can help them for free at my Sunday workshops, so I instantly become their valuable resource. This way, in the span of a couple of hours, I can help up to twenty people on a lazy Sunday afternoon rather than schedule twenty Skype sessions.
I save time, generate trust, and create likability.
Moreover, my workshops lead to a significant number of referrals for people to work with me.
So, what did I learn from growth hacking my network?
With social media, there are myriad ways to get in touch with almost anyone. It’s your job to discover the best ones. Then, hopefully, automate most of the work.
Using these seven growth hacks, I’ve managed to build a network in San Francisco that would take most people years to build, but within a fragment of the time. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to connect with and help so many individuals through a community I’ve built.
The best part is you can do this too.