Whether you’re hunting for a new job or hoping to drum up a little extra business for your company, networking is an effective way to reach your goals. The onward march of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook has made networking more accessible than ever before. Whether this kind of impersonal networking can ever fully replace face-to-face contact is doubtful. The most effective approach is to combine face-to-face and social networking. Here are five ways to get the balance right.
Use Business Cards to Link Social and Real-Life Personas
Some people claim that the ease with which people can transfer contact information via smartphones means that business cards are a thing of the past — a relic of the paper and print era. Advocates of using business cards for networking point to how creatively designed cards can differentiate a brand from its competitors. Advice on how to make your business card stand out varies, but Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson, writing in Entrepreneur, suggest including a personal picture. This is an effective way to offer a memorable visual link between your real-life and social personas.
Use Social Media Apps to Remember Milestones
Social media apps are a useful way to stay informed about milestones in your contacts’ lives. The Birthdays app on Facebook lets you know in advance when a contact is celebrating her big day, while LinkedIn offers notifications when people in your network start a new role or hit work anniversaries. These snippets of information are a great reason to pick up the phone to congratulate a contact — an icebreaker that helps you start the conversation and perhaps suggest a date to meet face-to-face and mark the occasion properly in the near future.
Use Social Media to Differentiate Between Contacts
It’s not realistic to meet every contact for a celebratory drink or even for coffee. Given how the number of social connections quickly rack up, finding the time to do this proves impossible for most people. Use social media functionality to divide your contacts into groups, highlighting those who you are likely to do business with. Pareto’s Law — “the law of the vital few” — may come into play here. You will likely find that many of those people who fall into the crucial 20 percent are contacts on LinkedIn. This platform is by nature for professional networking, hence the barriers to talk about business topics are almost nonexistent.
Leverage Social Media to Get More from Your Events
You probably already publicize company events on your various social platforms. Facebook, in particular, is a useful way to set up an event, send invitations, and undertake general promotion activities. The event itself is an excellent way to lay the groundwork for future contact. Afterward is when social media kicks in again. Publishing photos of the event offers the ideal opportunity for you to get in touch with your guests to tell them the event images are available online, remind them of your commitment to do business in the future, and set up a one-on-one meeting.
Use Social Media to Reduce Networking Costs
Business people often advocate joining official networking groups to make new contacts, gain referrals, and win new business. You may find an informal, free-to-join group, but many of these groups demand significant membership fees. If funds are tight, using social media provides an affordable alternative. LinkedIn shows how people you wish to connect with link to those people already in your list of contacts, and it offers the opportunity to ask for an introduction. In turn, this can open doors for face-to-face meetings. If you’re not a member of a local networking group, this functionality is invaluable.
Both social and face-to-face networking are effective ways to build your network. The key to success is knowing when to use each, and when to combine the two platforms. Taking the time to choose your networking strategy wisely can pay dividends. These five tips can help you leverage the benefits of both types of networking and use each to your advantage.