Is networking online really that different?

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Social networkingWith 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.


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  1. John,

    I really love this idea. I’m going to take your guidance and use the networking tool of campfire for my coaching program found at

    The idea of having a set time, call it a coaching gym, and have people either IM with campfire security, or call is really neat.

    I will let you know how it goes…

    Thanks for this idea.

    Matthew Scott
    The Life’s Work Group, Inc.

  2. I think your ideas are spot-on. If we are lucky enough to have the incredibly convenient medium of internet, it would not only be sad not to use it, but not cost effective. Those small businesses that use it to their advantage will pull ahead in the market.

    I’ve never heard of campfire, but I have recently been working for a video-chat server called ooVoo which has proven successful for many samll businesses. It allows up to 6 people to video-conference at the same time, using very low bandwidth (this is because it is server based rather than peer-2-peer). You can also use it for instant-messaging, just audio chat, text messaging, and sending video messages. It is also, according to the blog-world, VERY easy to use.

    Get online and start making more money!

  3. John,
    I couldn’t agree more. It’s almost funny how people will credit the technology with having such a reveolutionary effect on the way business & marketing is done – when in reality the most powerful technology just acts as an extension of how we interact with one another.

  4. John,
    BINGO!! Thank you for a great post. As I still continually enounter many people in my industry who don’t get it, or don’t(which relaly means won’t) have the time, this is the one idea I bring up. It’s like being at a networking event and giving people the chance to get to know you on a different level.
    Love the idea about Campfire too! Thanks for sharing your creativity!

  5. John,
    Your #1 and #3rd comments are spot on – giving referrals to your customers is extremely powerful and helps you cement your relationship with them & become their trusted advisor. As for #3, I find my peers have the “referral” DNA embedded in them – no training them, no worrying about showing them how, they just get it. So I find it’s much easier to give & get referrals from my peers vs customers or family/friends. We even built a website specifically for giving & getting referrals in such an environment – readers, please check it out.

    Michael Kreppein

  6. Great post John. Networking online shouldn’t be different, but for many people it is.

    I think part of the problem is that many people just don’t know how to network offline either.

    Your campfire lunch is a great idea.

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