It's a fact that regular face to face networking remains crucial to forming and building authentic relationships as part of your networking strategy. It would be an error to simply rely on channelling your virtual self through social networking to achieve the same results, however many engaged followers you may have.
But how can social media work to maximise the impact of your real-world networking? Here are 5 quick tips on how digital can assist or form part of a robust, long-term networking strategy.
- Reconnaissance - an obvious one but when planning to attend a meeting or an event, review the delegate list and do some preparation. Learn more about those individuals you want to speak to. Do a 'google' and you may glean some valuable information via their LinkedIn or Twitter account, activities they have been involved with at work via their business website, or find out if they have written any business articles. This will also save you time and provide a focus during the event, helping you to achieve a more effective experience.
- Profile - as well as getting out there first-hand, you can also raise your profile through thought-leadership, by positioning yourself as an 'expert' in your field of industry. Start a business blog, or offer to write a guest article for another website that fits your audience. Or, if this isn't quite right for you or your business area, then get engaged with other blogs that are relevant to your industry and audience by regularly making positive comments and adding-value by sharing tips and experiences.
- Connect - if you've forgotten or are running low on business cards, don't panic, think LinkedIn instead. Providing you have a smartphone you can instantly connect online in real-time. Increasingly, delegates are making use of LinkedIn as their initial contact details swap, face to face. Messages can also be sent via LinkedIn as you connect to initially build the relationship.
- Share - prior to an event do a little research online via LinkedIn, Twitter or news sites to capture a few key topical stories, tips or business issues that you can discuss with other delegates. This will help make you more memorable, help to break the ice and provide value to others. Also, listen carefully to others at the event so you can aim to help solve their issues when following-up.
- Engage - after an event connect with people online via their social networks. Social media is great for maintaining relationships and to continuously engage with individuals. However this should be done in a meaningful way and be fairly regular (without spamming!). Get front of mind by sharing relevant, valuable information, helping to resolve issues and commenting positively on their own posts.
Face to face or online, networking is a long-term approach and requires thought, time and patience. You may get a few quick-wins under your belt, but generally you should view your networking activity as a long-term strategy which you can plan, do, nurture and evaluate, integrating both real and virtual networking techniques regularly to drive your lead pipeline and achieve a return on investment over time. Ultimately you should be prepared to put something valuable into the network before you expect anything out of it, so make sure you are armed with information to share and referrals to pass on.
Let us know your own top tips for effective long-term networking.