Business Networking in the Digital Age
Guest Post Written By
Rachel Lee, Digital Marketing Strategist
Networking: a word that is often equated with being an uncomfortable chore, but something we have to do in business.
Online Networking: words that are often equated with being confusing, overwhelming, and ending in tech tantrums.
Neither have to be this way and in fact they can both work harmoniously well when used together.
Some Key In-person Business Networking Tips
- Have a firm handshake and extend your hand out first when you can. Make an effort to meet new people and don’t wait for a “proper” introduction if you don’t have to.
- Don’t make it all about you – in fact barely make it about you at all. Be genuinely interested in the other person. If what they say sound boring, challenge yourself to have the curiosity of a child and dig deeper.
- Confidently introduce yourself. Practice memorizing a few 15 second introductions with your title and how you help serve people. If you were the first person to introduce yourself, always close it with “what about you?”
- Treat their business card like a gift. Ask them for it, hold it in front of you with both hands, and point out anything interesting like their job title or location. This will help to keep the conversation flowing.
In our current era of digital communications, have many choices when it comes to continuing to build on the relationships you just started that evening. Setting up phone calls, and having meetings means that your in-person networking skills are working!
Some Key Follow-up & Online Business Networking Tips
- If you are planning on following up with someone via email, do it within 24 hours. I have found that after I have a glass of wine or beer at an evening event, I am exhausted when I get home. I may remember around 10 pm that I need to email the person, and it is best to write down some notes as soon as possible so you remember your thoughts. I usually write it up and schedule it with the Gmail Boomerang scheduler. This allows me to go out at the optimal time and date.
- Keep the business cards your collect all in one place, like an old card box. Stick up pieces of paper with letters on them to semi alphabetize the cards. Have another section for “reminders” or “follow ups”.
- Add each person you met on LinkedIn. Some people do not read the messages they get sent on LinkedIn, so always aim for email first. If it was a more casual introduction and you make a real connection, consider adding them on Facebook. A Twitter & Google Plus follow may be appreciated if those profiles were easily findable on their LinkedIn or website as long as it does not seem stalker like.
- You could text message the person if they said that is was alright, but texting can often have the wrong tone. Keep your text messages short and only for confirming information like future phone or in person meetings.
It can be overwhelming keeping up with all of the ways that people can contact you: email, phone, text, voice mails, Facebook messages, Facebook messages to your likable page, LinkedIn messages, comments in Facebook and LinkedIn groups, tweets, etc. You can set new message notifications to go to your email if you think that will help keep you organized. We also end up getting a lot of “push notifications” on our phone but I typically like to turn those off. I only check my messages when I want to. I usually schedule time in my day off to and resist the pressure of falling into other people’s agendas by a little blinking light.
Some Key Tips for Business Networking With Strangers Online
- Join and participate in Facebook and LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and target market. Make sure your personal Facebook page is looking professional, as your engagement in these groups will drive traffic to your page.
- Use LinkedIn’s advanced search tool or Pro features to further narrow down the types of people you are trying to meet.
- When you see that you have a mutual social media connection with someone you want to meet, ask for an introduction or name drop the mutual connection in an intro email.
- Start a conversation via the social media’s messaging system, but when the time feels right, try to move the discussion to traditional email. It will make your conversation feel more professional and you will have more control of your message formatting.
A final takeaway when it comes to networking in-person, online, or a mixture of both, is to always be friendly, yet professional. People want to work with people that they have a genuine connection with and that they resonate with. Be yourself from the beginning so you do not always have to keep up a facade, but put in the extra effort to polish your social skills. This can be done by studying networking from blogs, books, and Youtube, but mostly from gaining experience by showing up to networking events. Best of luck putting yourself out there! Remember that no one was born a social expert. You must put in the time to learn.
Brief Bio about the author: Rachel S. Lee is a business & digital marketing mentor for new entrepreneurs. She helps them to develop and execute strategic marketing plans that are aligned with their business goals. You can read her blog, watch her free digital marketing training videos, or hop on one of her live webinars at rachelslee.com