Networking in the Real World and Online

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Networking is a crucial aspect of a business marketing plan.  Relationships are essential in business and networking is one way to get the relationship-building process started.  Networking is a way for people to meet and get to know each other.  The use of effective social skills and a strategy is necessary to become a successful networker.   A savvy networker will use these skills both in their real world and online networking efforts.

Every individual who networks should have their own personal marketing plan, strategies and goals to create brand awareness and a buzz about individuals.  Networking should begin long before you print your business cards or step foot into a networking event.  Public relations and social media lay the groundwork for more effective real world networking.  How great would it be to have people who you have never met in person recognize you at an event?  By actively engaging target audiences on social media or by using a blog, you can build recognition and a positive reputation.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the ideal forum for professionals to gather online for business purposes.  Create a profile detailing your skills, accomplishments and personal interests.  The profile is not for you; it is for the people you want to get to know.  Include a professional headshot.  Make it easy for them to get a feel for your expertise, willingness to share and depth of your network.  Write your profile so people in the cyber world will want to connect to you and people in the real world will want to take the relationship to the next level.

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Although networking has evolved significantly with the advent of the internet, e-mail and social media, there is no substitute for meeting in-person and interacting face-to-face to build relationships.  Online networking should be used to reinforce relationships made in-person.  When networking in person the goal is to find common ground, which often has nothing to do with business.  Rob Fishman, Partner at Hauppauge based Sandler Training said, “When networking, you must resist the temptation to sell.  Networking is about creating a relationship for mutual gain.  The focus should be on meeting a person and creating a relationship.”  He suggested following the F-O-R-D acronym to avoid talking about business when networking.  “F is for Family; ask the person where they are from originally or if they have a family.  O is for Organization; ask the person about their company and who is a good prospective client for them.  R is for Recreation; ask what they do for fun, people like to talk about topics that are enjoyable.  D is for Dreams and Aspirations; ask what the person’s goals are and what they want to achieve.  The big picture is about creating a network of people in which there is a shared mutual level of trust,” added Mr. Fishman.

Bruce Libman, Author of It’s Just Breakfast and Total Networking, endorses the “give to get philosophy” when networking and building business relationships.   “Giving is key to relationship-building and you have to give much more than you should expect to receive.  Giving information, ideas or making introductions demonstrates that you care and that you have listened to the other person’s needs or interests.  This carries a lot of weight when building relationships,” said Libman.

Business Cards

After you’ve met people, swapping business cards remains important to swiftly exchange information.  Today, there are smart phone applications that allow users to exchange contact information by simply bumping their phones together; a cool app, but not common.  Business cards remain the staple.  There are several apps including one by LinkedIn called CardMunch that allows you to quickly scan business cards and import their information into your database and generate a connection request on LinkedIn at the same time.

c/o www.businesscardsforfree.net

Phil Capell from GoSchmooze, a networking facilitation system which randomly puts four individuals together for a business lunch or breakfast, suggests to, “Always be networking.  Every person you meet has the potential to introduce you to others in his or her network. Try to meet people every day.  Remember that networking is not prospecting.  Don’t treat all people as prospects. Develop relationships with people first and build upon this to see if business or referrals can be shared.”

After you have met someone, started a conversation and exchanged information, the real challenge begins – follow-up.  It is crucial to following up with each person you want to continue a relationship.  Making contact after the initial meeting is absolutely necessary if you want to build a relationship even if to simply touch base or have coffee,.  A personalized system for following up must be created and used.  If you do not follow-up, networking is a waste of time for you or the company you work for.  Failing to follow-up is a critical mistake that the majority of “networkers” make – don’t be one of them.

Networking is about meeting people and managing relationships.  Create a system to build awareness for yourself and your brand, network in the real world and online to strengthen relationships, and commit to following up.  Each of these steps offers their own challenges.  Even if you have been networking for years, take a look at what you are doing, create a plan or update your networking plan and make sure you have a clear follow up strategy.

Author:

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com.  He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Sources:

About Bill Corbett Jr.

This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm. For more information, go to corbettpr.com or to his blog corbettprblog.com. He can be reached at wjcorbett@corbettpr.com or @wjcorbett.

Comments

  1. I agree with Basil. Since it seems that so many people haven’t crossed the digital divide, business cards are still a necessity. They are expected.

  2. Having a branding place helps, like a blog, online portfolio, or a group that you moderate. To me its the new business card, anyone with an internet connection can get as much information about you as you’ll let them in no time flat.

  3. I still think that because we ae so digital now in a still tangible world, the business card is so important!

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