BUSINESS NETWORKING, A HOW-TO FOR THE DIGITAL AGE: by Brad Hines 9-15-13 1:45 pmFollow @BradHines
I have cultivated my network the slow and steady way for years, mostly using e-mail as the epicenter. Although nothing fully replaces in-person networking, I do recommend digitally doing so as well for its advantages like ease of finding relevant contacts, ability to initiate an introduction, "rolodex" keeping, and sharing information with those contacts. Here is an outline of exclusively digital ways to grow and expand your business network:
Depending on your business and industry, you'll likely have to e-mail at least a few people a day, to as many as hundreds. E-mail, is a rather basic but overlooked way to growing your network. What's important isn't just sheer e-mailing, but to cultivate the relationship over time. When you see things of interest to someone in your e-mail contacts, go ahead and shoot them something. Sometimes I can't remember the person's e-mail, or even their last name, and Gmail's search function is a wonder at tracking down who I had in mind, simply through keywords in our former correspondences.
With e-mail, it is important to put the proper effort into each, that each person is treated as well as the next, no matter who it is. Act like no one is any more important than anyone else, because after all, they aren't, and you never know where a job, gig, or other introduction will come from. It's not a numbers game as many would have you believe, but a quality game–make every letter you send out have those added touches in it and it's amazing what happens over time. There are some good rules I made for myself I seldom break. I recommend everyone make the e-mail personal in some way, well thought out, professional–complete with proper spelling–and a solid call to action like a request to reach out on Linkedin at a minimum when appropriate.
Top all of that off with an enticing e-mail signature which picks up lots of default following and traffic, and you can slowly and surely build your network in due time. I recommend WiseStamp.
Linkedin to boost your business network.
Linkedin as you likely know is a great way to network in the digital age. Notwithstanding that it shouldn't replace in-person encounters, Linkedin is amazing for its ability to let your discover interesting contacts in your pajamas. Please simply read my former article here Some tips for Linkedin you may not have heard yet, 7-15-13.
"With Twitter, hashtags and search are a great way to find the right types of people to network with. Then virtual relationships can easily be created by using all the engagement techniques:
Retweeting - By simply clicking the retweet button, that tweet gets exposure to all your followers. Sometimes the best technique is to copy and paste the tweet and note that it is a "RT" in front of the other Twitter handle. Or use "MT" if it needs to be modified.
Mentioning - By saying something favorably about someone, they will be happy. Often that leads to a nice response or at least a retweet of your message.
Favoriting - By making a tweet a favorite, it tells the tweeter that you think their content is worth reading.
Listing - By adding a Twitter account to a list, it is highlighting it as worthy of following (based on the theme of the list.) It also makes it easy for others to follow the list.
All of these forms of engagement show up on Twitter's "connect" area and many take notice on their laptops, smart phones and tablets. It is a great way to meet online!" - Mike Byrnes, national speaker and founder of Byrnes Consulting, LLC
Social Media Events
There are custom events for some social media where people can network. Twitter has "Friday Follow" which is when you use the #FF hash and endorse people to others you think they should follow. Endorsing someone is a great way to be endorsed yourself at some point.
There are some interesting "techy" ways to business network these days. I put a QR code on business card as an example, it is both functional and a conversation starter when people receive my business card. Do read my article on this as well Marketing and branding your business with QR codes 10-31-12.
Other cool tech for networking includes any of the many apps. A great one is Bump, although it does of course require the other person have it as well. But Bump users can bump their phons together and it instantly exchanges contact info. It's the modern day paperless business card.
Some immutable networking tips:
No matter where you network online, do remember the "rules":
Look to connect with people of similar interests but make sure to sprinkle in people with unrelated ones as well for a richer network.
Aim for mutuality in the relationship. Give today to get tomorrow.
Do stay in touch. Relationships of any time have to be kept alive with contact, or they grow stale.
Be authentic. Don't tout yourself in a different way than you are, or proclaim skills you don't have. Erring towards humility is a good way to stay authentic, and actually promotes yourself better in the long run.
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About the writer:Brad Hines is the president of YumDomains.com, and the founder of HungryKids.org. He is a digital marketing and social media strategist. A writer as well, he typically writes about Internet, business, and science trends. Feel free to add him on Linkedin, his e-mail for it is email@example.com. He can be followed on Twitter:Follow @BradHines