Over the last three decades there has been a big shift in how business networking is perceived. Believe it or not, there use to be a time when “business networking” was a taboo. It was actually considered shameful to admit that you received access to a meeting or even information through a networking relationship. That meant that you couldn’t find a job on your own merits. Okay, so maybe I am dating myself!
Enter the late 80s to the early 90s – amongst all the right-sizing and downsizing, the term “business networking” became an acceptable practice and a powerful buzz term. What it meant was to get out and develop a business network. It became important to know the right people and to have business connections. It was an invaluable asset to developing business and finding jobs.
Now business networking includes another angle. It is no longer just about who you know, although that certainly remains helpful, it’s also about who knows you. And here’s the real difference – you don’t even have to know who they are.
Business networking in this decade is about getting found.
Social media is largely responsible for this shift in perspective towards business networking – the large and now mighty business platforms such as LinkedIn and Mosaic Hub come to mind. I can personally attest that LinkedIn has provided the forum for 3H Communications to receive referrals from not only our direct business connections but also from people we have never met.
How does this happen? Well for the large part, we have been active on these social media platforms. Business networking today no longer requires wearing a suit with a wine glass in your hand. Sites geared towards professionals provide the ability to reach out to possible business connections on a global scale and develop digital relationships that can be equally as significant as the ones developed face to face.
So how do you work your online business network? Well for starters you need to develop a personal brand, or your business’ voice. Once you have accomplished this, you need to do the following:
1) Join groups that are relevant to your objectives – whether it’s getting a job in a certain industry or developing contacts or potential clients. Join multiple groups, not just one or two. Reach is important to creating awareness and gaining traction.
2) Be part of the conversation. Don’t just listen and observe. Jump in. Offer opinions or advise based on your experience. Start a dialogue based your own knowledge.
3) Create content about what is relevant and important to your audience. You need to make some noise in order to be heard. Pretend you’re at a business event or a cocktail party for the sole purpose of networking. How would you start a conversation at either of those places? How would you present yourself and your knowledge? The same rules apply to creating content online.
4) Share your content. This action is equivalent to visiting multiple networking events in the same day. If you think about what that would mean in the the physical world, it just makes sense to share your content online.
Today’s business networking opportunities within the social realm are very diverse with few limitations. They are also much more efficient than ever before. Share with us some of your success stories networking within the digital space. We’d like to hear about them!