Networking is one of the most – if not the most – effective tools that a professional can use for growing their business and widening opportunities for career development. But with the advent of social networking sites, is traditional networking still relevant, and more importantly, still effective?
Many professionals say “Yes”. Sarah Allison is Director of Social Yorkshire Ltd, a social media marketing company based in Leeds. As an active and successful net-worker for a number of years, Sarah says it’s all about using digital technologies to compliment your physical networking efforts – not replacing them: “Nearly all – around 90% – of my current clients have come though referral and word of mouth. Even though my business is online social networking, as a group leader for 4Networking in Leeds, I make time each week for offline networking.” This she says is crucial, as it establishes stronger relationships with contacts. Sarah’s advice is to ensure that when you meet someone in person that you connect with them online – and if she meets a new contact through twitter or LinkedIn for example, she always makes sure she arranges a chat over coffee, to meet in person.
The Digital Era
Today, digital technology, such as the likes of social networking sites LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter – allows professionals to scale their networking efforts more succinctly and successfully. Tools such as twitter chats, Google+ Hangouts and Skype, enable people to connect, confer and communicate with a much wider network, much faster than ever before. And whilst we do live in a ‘digital era’ – it doesn’t mean we should ‘cocoon’ ourselves in our virtual online words, isolated from real human interaction. There’s so much that can still be said for meeting people face-to-face, as this is a great way to establish an instant connection with a person, and quickly build trust. Using these digital tools should be alongside any ‘offline’ or ‘traditional’ networking you undertake, as a means to stay in touch and keep at the forefront of peoples’ minds.
Scale-ability and Reach
Networking is all about building contacts. Not only that, but contacts you can rely on (and who can rely on you). Meeting people in person enables you to find those reliable, quality contacts – but combine with digital tools, and you can scale the quantity of your network and widen your reach – and not to mention your potential. But you must try to keep your online persona as real as your ‘real life’ persona, as people trust consistency and authenticity. If you’ve met a contact online, make sure you’re just the same and as genuine in person as you are on the screen – and vice versa.
The Bottom Line
Traditional networking is not dead. Despite the growth of digital technologies, face-to-face interaction is still important in winning trust and generating leads. Used correctly, traditional networking is an extremely powerful tool that is enhanced even further by social networking, as a means to continue your conversations and social interactions with your contacts.
At Ripley Training, we run an interactive Business Networking Course, to equip you with the skills – and confidence – to make networking a success for you and your business. The workshop provides you with the knowledge to generate more contacts and qualified leads, including good and bad techniques, and real life examples of business networking. Please contact us today for more information, or book online.
Blog Written by Mike Smith