Developing your professional network is like water – you need it to survive. We all have heard we are ‘supposed’ to drink up to eight 8-ounce glasses a day. But do we? Usually the answer is no, and it is no because often times we are so busy we just forget how important it is. Then upon remembering, we are ‘good’ for a while, drink up like mad, and then we tend to slip back into old habits of dehydration and neglect.
I realize this is not everyone’s story when it comes to networking, but it’s got my name written all over it. Be that as it may, with on-line networking we have a few fantastic tools in our toolbox to help us out with that. So that, on the days we are being good we can perk up our Linkedin, send a few ‘how ya doing’ emails, comment on other businesses FB pages, and a few blogs we have been meaning to get to. Then when we slip back into the practice of getting the daily job done, we still receive the payoff, days after. We receive replies back from emails, we get a few fresh LinkedIn connections in our mailbox, and we make some important contacts via the blogging world.
But face to face connecting is important and is as valuable today as it was before we had on-line choices. Firstly, I find it easier making new contacts face to face, particularly at a scheduled networking event like a conference or seminar. During those networking breaks chances are if you connect with only two or three people, that can lead to many more connections that they personally know, and now feel better introducing or referring you. Secondly, often people you’d like to work with or associate with frankly are not good with online business relationships, or they simply are not on-line at all. Some of our best clients simply choose not to engage with social media. This is when it is important to be seen at various events that you know those clients will be attending.
So what I found works is maintaining a schedule of upcoming events. From that schedule I calendar in one ‘in person’ networking event a month, and I make a point of sticking to it. I also keep an eye out for twitter chats; I have participated in a few, but my strategic plan is to ensure I am involved in at least 4-6 a month. These don’t take an incredible amount of time and they have great pay off for meeting, following, and acquiring new followers for your organization. I have also started to actively look for specific groups on LinkedIn that I can become involved in, and I feel it is important to look at any volunteering I do in the same light. This is a great way to not only help an organization but at the same time meet people in a whole different light (no business suit, just genuine chit chat). And each year I try to learn or do something ‘new’. This year I joined Toastmaster’s and have met similar people who are equally interested in the benefits of networking. Eventually I’d like to form a new media chat evening right here in my City and be able to share some insights with people invested in the same goals.
Networking can take many forms, but undoubtedly it has tremendous value all around. Any way of active engagement can help not only boost your business profile, but also your own.