In today’s fast paced environment, ways of working are perpetually changing - and over the last decade alone networking has seen one the largest seismic shifts of any working practice.
In reality it was not long ago that the main way to network was through business meetings, annual events or via colleagues. It's not that long ago that business breakfasts and speed networking events were the new way of expanding our contact base. However, since then - and in a relatively short space of time - networking has moved up several exciting gears. The growth of networking sites has seen the success of ‘social’ sites like Facebook cross over and explode into the business world, with Linkedin and many others continuing to appear on a regular basis.
Through the advent of these, I have personally witnessed individuals heralding social networking to the point they haven’t attended a single ‘real’ networking event of any kind in the last 6 months. Surprisingly this has not been to their apparent detriment as they continue to grow their network of colleagues and clients successfuly. An interesting thought maybe?
But anyone who is a social networker will know instantly that although this genre of networking can broaden our contacts significantly, in reality managing to connect with those people on a personal level takes far more applied dedication. Similarly there are those who may still argue that personal interaction through tangible face to face meetings remains the best way to network. But taking the old adage of quality over quantity, maybe you should ask yourself: out of the numerous business cards you have collected in this way, how many contacts have you had the chance to follow up with on a regular basis? In reality, if you're not virtually networking to support these face to face meetings, you could face loosing a contract to someone who is.
Exploiting The Synergies Between Virtual and Real Networking
However, before you cancel your next breakfast meeting in favour of some digital catch up, it is important to realise the potential synergy that can be achieved by having both real and virtual networking activities working hand in hand. Therefore, we shouldn’t be sitting singularly in either camp. Moving forward we need to merge the two methods, link the old with the new and achieve the best possible growth of our networks and client bases. However, you will discover quickly that this area has uncovered a whole new depth of marketing for both your company and yourself; furthermore, as it is still in its infancy where it will lead is yet to be determined. But it's certainly worth considering the following points:
• Ensure you have a social networking page for either yourself or your company.
• Set aside regular times to update this, connect with your contacts and arrange real face to face meetings on the back of this virtual connection.
• Your social networking page is a first impression of you and your company, so ensuring this looks professional and contains all the relevant information is essential. Similarly your business cards need to convey your presence on any networking sites. Stand out from the crowd, use the new technology and media available - barcodes on business cards to take contacts straight to your networking page - if it's a talking point, use it.
• Be careful to use the right tone and wording. As humans, we have spent thousands of years evolving and honing our skill to pick up on facial expressions and body language in order to gauge a person's emotions. This is not possible through digital communications, so extra care should be deployed when communicating in this way.
• Finally, employing the services of a professional to produce regular articles to post on your networking site is a growing trend. This can ensure you have good quality relevant articles to post - leaving you free to focus on running your business whilst keeping your virtual presence maintained.
About the Author - Vivienne Ollis
After completing an MBA in Coporate Strategy Vivienne was offered the opportunity to write a one off article on corporate marketing. From the sucess of this Vivienne now works on a permanent basis as a freelance copywriter, specialising in digital marketing content. If you would like to contact Vivienne for any requirements please contact her through either Twitter or Linkedin.