Old School vs New School #1 – Ways To Build A Network

by Justin Souter on November 24, 2011

Introduction & context

I know Fiona Birkbeck, Creative Director of Multiminded through networking events on Tyneside, and so was intrigued when she invited me to write an article which looks at tools for business networking. The following quote is from Fiona’s e-mail to me on the subject:

I think when I last saw you I mentioned to you that an idea of mine, Old School vs New School was the main winner of Northern Film and Media‘s Big Society Big Ideas competition. We’re now at the stage of looking for additional partners and sponsors and some really interesting organisations are coming on board.

As well as connecting generations we celebrate the best of old school and new school business techniques on our platform and we’ve got some great content providers. However, Di Gates and I talked about having an article on the different ways to network.

So, I was pleased to be able to recount some of my learnings in two articles for the site, and also reflect on Miss Geeky’s talk of three years ago! This is the first of two posts, with the first article.

Ways To Build A Network

This is the text of the first article:

HomeSocial media can be used for a number of uses in a business context, and this article looks at social networking for business development – and uses the example of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn seems to be a lower-impact way of connecting, less ‘disruptive’ than say, an e-mail – and you stay connected. It’s appropriate for business, and more straightforward than Facebook or Twitter – so a good place to start.

The point of all this is to drive new business and improve your business, so first things first – write down a list of what are you trying to achieve – (e.g name / brand recognition to begin with). This frames your use of social media / networking in terms of business benefits.

My suggested steps at a high level are to:

1. Build your network online – i.e. connect with people!

2. Build your reputation within your network – do things that make people think well of you

3. Continue to create value for your network, and ask them for your assistance in an proportionate way

4. Use tools like LinkedIn to bring people together; , start conversations; earn right to be connected with key prospects; and employ your ‘social capital’ to request introductions to these prospects from your online connections

Networking is a key part of doing business – people do business with people. Online, it’s still about people – you’re simply using technology to bring you together. I encourage you to approach technology no differently than you would any other part of your business; it’s not a special case!

So, what are the benefits of using online tools?

  • Democratises networking – it’s always been about ‘who you know’, but at least now you can see the outline of those networks!
  • You and your connections can harness these stepping stones to help each other achieve greater things
  • It’s persistent – and there is more control because you can opt in and out of being connected with other people
  • Because it is more deliberative, it can be helpful for those of us still developing our interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence!
  • That said, it has a multiplier effect for all the face-to-face networking you do – they reinforce one another.

There’s always a ‘but’:

  • Just be aware that although entry-level accounts are free, someone is paying – i.e. businesses pay to learn about target communities and related trends; and for recruiters, LinkedIn is a rich source of talent!
  • What you share can quite often be public forever, and “can and will be used against you”. Sensitive communications should probably be kept to channels you’re familiar with and are trusted already.
  • Because they lack the immediate feedback of meeting in person, slightly different rules of thumb apply.


I hope you found this article useful, and it will encourage you to read the companion piece [I’ll update this page with the link when the second article goes live].

Please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn and connect on Old School vs New School, but please be aware I tend only to accept connection invites from people I already know.

UPDATED: slight tweaks to clarify whose text was whose!

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