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The art of networking is alive and well. In today’s world, however, it has changed drastically from just a few years ago and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As a business owner, there are several do's and don’ts when it comes to networking. Most people miss a few of the biggest underlying concepts. Without these, you will continue to network without the amazing results you could be achieving.
Let’s explore the two biggest philosophies people miss. The first is that you need to be at the center of your network. While it is assumed that this takes too much time and effort, that assumption is just plain wrong. It does take a concerted effort, but combined with the second principle, it infinitely easier.
The second paradigm is to leverage social media and the vast array of tools that are accessible to everyone.
There are two prevailing, and inaccurate, thoughts most of us have:
1. If I go to enough meetings, I’ll grow my business.
Most people spend their time going to events all over their chosen geographical area. They HOPE if they meet enough people, they will get some business. While attending networking events should be a part of your strategy, the missed concept is that they are not creating a network around themselves. When you are at the center of your network, it allows for you to bring the ideal clients to your location or venue.
Why is this so important? It allows you to share your insights with others and it positions you as a leader! When people see you have the confidence to set up your own networking event, it intrinsically informs them that you are a connector, topical expert, thought leader, etc.
2. Social media is irrelevant to networking.
What we see with most companies is that social media is "something they should be doing". They either don’t do it, or they leverage it a manner that is disconnected from the rest of their marketing and networking activity.
When you apply the paradigm of being at the center of your network, social media can be one of your biggest assets. Facebook and LinkedIn have groups which anyone can leverage. Setting up a geographical group can put you at the center of your network.
There are a few things you need to make this work. When you put yourself out there at the center of your network, you must be engaged. The number one mistake is to set a group up and simply not engage it. You must realize that you are the leader of the group and act accordingly.
The second mistake is not being an expert in your field and providing valuable content. You have to provide some of your best content to the group. If not, people may have a hollow feeling that all you are trying to do is sell and manipulate the group members.
To get started here are some of our favorite tools.
- Facebook: To start, if you already have your company page, create a group that is linked to your company page. This group should be both topical and geographically focused. If you cover multiple geographies, create multiple groups.
- LinkedIn: I recommend LinkedIn for topical groups. The difference here is that, although it’s not necessarily geographically centered, it’s still a great tool to promote your expertise.
- Meetup: Meetup is the easiest way to set up a networking event. Once you do this in Meetup, you get the benefit of sharing it with your online communities. Further, Meetup itself is the go-to place for people searching for events. You get the benefit of inviting your online communities as well as people searching organically for your type of events.
Networking is the number one unwritten rule of success in business- Sallie Krawcheck
(To learn more about networking and social groups, don’t miss Tim Fives’ great “Intentional Networking” seminar on Thursday, April 12, from 9:00 AM – 12:00 Noon at the Comfort Suites in Manheim, PA. )