Ways To Engage And Expand Your Network
If you’ve been to any networking events recently, and met new business connections, you may well be asking, how should I follow up and stay in contact? May I suggest that you use the details on the business cards you’ve collected to send them an invite to your network on LinkedIn? Build the network before you need it! Instead of having a pile of dusty cards on your desk, consider turning them into something that actively works for you – encourage serendipity! How about turning your existing rolodex into an online one via LinkedIn: perhaps get them scanned in bulk (e.g. CloudContacts ) or use a mobile phone app?
Once you’re underway, share topical and relevant information with your network. Ask questions, participate in groups – be a good ‘online citizen’. Keep in mind that reciprocation is key, and it’s wise to "create more than you capture" – i.e. give more to other people than you take in return.
After a while, you should reach a tipping point: if you’ve got lots of people in your network, then it becomes a valuable resource. The ‘power of weak connections’ principle is that you will then know someone who knows someone else etc. And the great thing about online networks is that your efforts can be massively amplified – if you’ve built up a trustworthy and valuable network online, people will be happy to help you.
For many of us, however, the challenge is what to communicate and when, how often, what’s appropriate – and what’s not? Updates are a key way of keeping yourself in people’s minds, so my advice is to start small and share pertinent information, and be sure to ask for feedback – that way it becomes a dialogue. Tweak as necessary. Ask people what they think when you meet them in person, and adjust accordingly! Social media is effective in both B2B and B2C, just remember to fish where the fishes are.
In summary, online and offline work together – it’s both, in case you’re asking. But how can you feel comfortable using online tools and fit them into your existing busy schedule? Answer – when you’re getting traction and business results, then the balance will shift!
Facebook and Twitter can be effective, but maybe consider keeping things simple to begin with, if you’re new to all this. If you’re really adventurous, explore other professional social networks, including Viadeo, which originated in France, and XING (from Germany).
So, imagine you’re booking yourself on a future event (e.g. The Bridge Club). Look it up online, and in advance find the people who are going to be there: are they in a market segment I’m interested in? Take your list and mark sure to connect with them in person, and then carry on the conversation online. Resist the temptation to have one more glass of wine and hob-nob with people you know – at least until you’ve connected with those on your list.
Meet new people, advance your business, and enjoy yourself. Simples!
I hope you found this article useful, and it will encourage you to read the companion piece.