Networking is essential for your business to reach its full potential. Effective networking allows you to cultivate long-lasting relationships and is a low-cost way to build your brand. Your network can be an important source of referrals, new employees and potential business partners. Key influencers in your network can also help your business reach a wider market.
Networking can be a challenge for many people, but it can open a wide array of new opportunities for your business. Learning a few best practices can give you clear direction to make your networking count.
Which Is Better: Online Networking or Networking Events?
There's really no easy answer to this question. It depends on the amount of time, money, and sweat you're willing to put into each of these. It also depends on whether your target audience can be found there.
- Networking events gives you valuable face-to-face interactions, but you may find that the same people go to the same events year after year, drying up your opportunities.
- Online networking may expose you to a wider audience, but they may not be ready to hear a pitch. Some people go online to relax.
Whether you do it online or in-person, the best places to network are ones where you can establish a genuine connection with people who share your interests. However, be sure to emphasize the quality rather than the quantity of your connections.
Best Practices for Online Networking
In order to truly get the advantage of networking online, keep the following in mind:
Utilize Social Media to Its Fullest
Sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are great for dialoguing with your contacts, answering questions and staying in touch. Blogs and Twitter are useful for broadcasting information about yourself or your company to your network while reaching new contacts.
Develop a Website or Online Portfolio
An online portfolio is useful for sharing your work if you are in a creative field and is necessary in order to succeed in today’s connected world. Coroflot, Behance Network and Carbonmade are some of the most popular free portfolio sites.
Use Proper Etiquette Online
- It’s important not to drive new connections away with too much communication. Write them a greeting message and write to them every few months with updates.
- You can make new connections when someone in your network posts a new piece of content such as a blog or a video. Use that opportunity to engage with the content and with other users who may comment on it.
- If you are publishing new content, try to post it when many of your contacts are online. This will increase your visibility and will make it more likely that you will gain new connections from your effort.
You Can Always Advertise
If grinding it out isn't working for you on social media or you aren't attracting new visitors to your website, you can always put your money where your mouth is and do some paid advertising.
Best Practices for Networking Events
Here are some tips for hitting up networking events and conventions:
Choose Events With the Possibility of High Interaction
Find opportunities to have conversations with peers who have shared interests and work on building a relationship with them. If you are speaking with an industry leader, keep the conversation focused on questions about their work and what insight they can provide to help you with a project rather than offering compliments. This can lead to a more useful exchange for you and for your contact while showing them them your goals and ambitions.
Conferences, seminars, trade shows and speeches allow you to meet and often speak directly with industry leaders and your peers. You can find professionals with similar interests and challenges and can collaborate on new solutions.
Etiquette for Networking Events
- Don’t interrupt someone’s conversation to network with them. Wait until they are finished before introducing yourself or you could turn them off from you.
- Find a natural way to give someone your contact information. Hand them a business card when it seems natural in the conversation and they will be more likely to remember you and establish a connection.
Always Follow Up
There's usually this massive information overload after one of these events. Stay top of mind by following up afterward.
Whether you decide to do most of your networking online or offline, make sure you get the best marketing materials available to you. Request a FREE business card sample pack to see what SILKCARDS can do for you.