With all of the hoopla these days about networking online I can’t help but wonder why people get so confused about how to approach these new tools. See, networking is networking, only the tools that you can employ have changed.
When you think about it, hasn’t networking always been social networking?
Here are some of the proven, effective best practices when it comes to networking
- It’s never about the sale, it’s always about the relationship – build first by giving
- Don’t keep score, give because you can help, the universe will sort out the accounting
- Network with your peers and partners as much as with your prospects and customers
- Every network has influencers, build relationships with the influencers
- Get out and chat, lunch and visit with the members of your network from time to time
While I’m sure there is many a fine point that could be added to that list, would you agree that’s what effective networking looks like? So, I ask you, does that change just because the networking platform is no longer a Chamber of Commerce? Doesn’t that sound like a pretty effective way to approach building and expanding your network within a Small Business Brief, Digg or LinkedIn?
Building and maintaining strong networks is the killer practice for the most successful organizations, every business should be reaching out and connecting with customers, prospects and partners both online and off. The secret to opening up these new access points online and expanding your networking reach globally is to go in there with the same best practices in mind, but find ways to creatively apply them with the new, rich set of tools.
Okay, an example of creatively applying this concept.
Let’s do lunch – can become let’s do virtual lunch.
Here’s what I would propose – send 5 people you would like to network with a $10 Panera Bread Company gift card and invite them to grab lunch and meet for an online group chat to discuss X (x = a topic like a book, or tool or some challenge you know is common.) – You can use Campfire from 37 Signals to host the chat.
Here’s what is really cool about this. This could be a very powerful medium to network, share ideas and build relationships. You could set this up and do it weekly with different peers, partners and customers. (you don’t have to always buy the lunch!) But, what I really like about this idea is that the group chat tool creates a transcript that will certainly enhance the participation of the members in the chat and could easily turn into great content for future consumption.