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5 Effective Networking Takes Commitment and Clarity

These days the word networking has any number of meanings and context.

There’s social networking, the kind of networking you do wherever two or more of you are gathers and of course that pesky wiring together of far flung computer nodes that might come up in a random search on the term networking.

SXSWi

I’m at SXSWi this week in Austin and hidden in all those tweets and posts from giddy geeks gone gonzo is the fact that this event is one of the premiere networking events for people in the online and interactive world.

But, networking in your world, no matter where that takes place, is still one of the most important elements of small business relationship building. Like many elements of marketing, however, it’s even more effective when you learn how to blend good old “hi, tell me about your business” with “Let’s connect online.”

Commitment

  • Networking takes commitment because:
  • You’ve got to actually get out and go where people are
  • You’ve got to take some time to learn about who might be at the event
  • You’ve got to make an effort to get uncomfortable
  • You’ve got to actually care about what the new person you just met is saying
  • You’ve got to hold off launching into a sales pitch
  • You’ve got to commit to meeting everyone in the same way
  • You’ve got to accept that people need to meet you
  • You’ve got to be willing to approach anyone

Clarity

  • Networking takes clarity because:
  • You’ve got to know exactly how you add value
  • You’ve got to know exactly whom you can help
  • You’ve got to keep your business card from becoming a reflex
  • You’ve got to have an online connection plan
  • You’ve got to have a follow-up plan
  • You’ve got to know who else needs to meet who you meet

Today, pick an event and make a plan to make it amazing. Stuff this list in your pocket and then move fearlessly around the room making meaningful connection with every single person you don’t already know.

47 Why We Overtweet

This morning I’m participating in a panel at SXSW Interactive in Austin called Tweeting on the Weekends. The panelist and audience will attempt to address the idea that our digital worlds are overtaking our physical worlds and perhaps threatening to invade our lives in ways that cause more damage than good.

opensourceway via Flickr

You’ve seen the ads, tweeting at the kids soccer games, having a text conversation with one friend rather than actually talking to the friend you went to lunch to be with.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, more like a phase that I’m seeing evidence is waning, but I do think there are some interesting dynamics to this dilemma and here’s what I plan to explore with the audience today.

Like swimming in Jell-O

I’ve actually never done this, but I’m guessing a couple of things – it’s one of those things you would do because a bunch of other people were doing it, and if you got lost you might just keep swimming.

The surest way to get drawn into any obsessive or useless behavior is to enter into it or anything around it with no plan. That doesn’t mean you know exactly what you’re going to tweet, but you might have an idea why and an even clearer idea of what you want the sum total of your tweeting to get you.

Yes, this is the strategy before tactics riff from me again, but there’s little sense jumping into any tactic, even the deep end of the Jell-O pool, unless you know how it’s going to integrate into your life or business plan.

I’m more important online

You’ve heard the saying; you can be anyone you want online. While I think that’s true to a degree, if it’s another way of saying you can be someone you’re not, than it’s a recipe for distraction, oversharing and addiction.

That’s part of the appeal of the online world though isn’t it? The halls of the Austin Convention Center are teaming with self-proclaimed geeks, the kind that spent some of their high school years getting stuffed in lockers, now sporting entourages and signing autographs for other social media obsessed wannabes.

I know that comes off a bit harsh, but it’s a well-witnessed phenomenon that’s led to some immature and silly behavior.

Here’s the positive. You can remake your persona online – but rather than make it what you want it to be, make it who you really are – but put emphasis the best you. So many people lose their way and their beliefs because people around them throughout their lives have told them they’re not something they want to be. Shed that part and meet and engage people and causes in ways that make you more you and you’ll probably rethink the silliness of it all.

Fusing two worlds

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so, including a chapter or two in The Referral Engine, talking about this idea of converging your online and offline worlds. When I was researching that book I was profoundly stuck by the correlation between companies that did a great job integrating their offline and online customer experiences and the amount of buzz and referrals they received.

I view my online persona and social media participation as a way to expand my reach and enhance the things I’m already doing, not as separate stream and form of communication.

Multiple context disorder

The area that trips so many up when it comes to overtweeting behavior is that they forget there are no contextual barriers in most social networks. Your boss, your clients, your mom and your employees may all see the same tweet or Facebook status update and are left to interpret it in their own view. (Rumor has it that Google has cooked up a new social network called Circles that is said to address this very flaw.)

When you ponder this idea of digital tactics creeping into your personal life remember this question and use it as your filter – Would I do that offline? See, just because you can do something that’s digitally enabled, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Would you call a prospect at two in the morning? Would you talk about yourself and all the cool things you’ve done with someone you just met at a cocktail party? Would you respond to an RFP with the following – Will get U the preso in AM – LOL? If the answer is no, then there’s your filter.

Focus on the house

Facebook is not the house, Twitter is not the house, your social profiles spread far and wide are not the house.

Your hub, your blog, your web site – that’s the house. Build the house, fix the house, decorate the house and invite the party to the house because it’s the one thing you can own and control. (Unless you live in a country that controls your access to the Internet)

Your activity in social media is all about building a persona/brand that draws people to the house, whether you’re a plumbing contractor, consultant or someone that wants to create a path to a better career.

Build rich and engaging hubs wherever your prospects hang out, but remember your always going home.

That’s it, not that big of a deal really – now, I’m off to tweet what I had for lunch.