Networking, a term, over-used in this day and age of the internet and social media. A lot of people use social media for “networking” yet have its definition totally wrong. Pushing your work onto somebody, spamming people with links, is not “networking”. When the term networking is used in reference to some type of business, it definitely is being misused, or even abused.
Back in the day, (read: before there was internet / social media) you mostly built your network on your work, things you could show for, your actions and referrals from people you work with. Now, a lot of networking is done through the internet, specifically social media.
Social media made it easier to connect to people, all over the world. Connecting is not equal to networking. This is where the mistake is made. In any type of industry, networking requires mutual benefits from collaborating. It’s not a one-way street. You can’t make a connection, if the other side doesn’t connect with you. Social media can be used in different ways. One can use it to listen, to send, or to do both. It can be used to act, interact and react. According to the business dictionary, this is the definition of networking:
Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”
Applying that to social media, in my experience, more people are focused on the latter question of above definition. People send out work of their own, without interacting, or showing interest in what the other person does. This is not the most effective way to gain valuable business. Below I’ve summed up my opinion of the most important Do’s and Don’ts.
The DO’s of Business Networking:
- Show interest in the person (and their work) who you are trying to “network” with.
- When you connect, introduce yourself and your work in a professional way.
- Make clear how you can be beneficial to each other. What do you have in common, which mutual interests do you have?
- If your goal is to work together, have your solid ideas ready.
- Maintain a relationship, keep communication open, see #1: keep showing interest.
The DON’Ts of Business Networking:
- Do not address a person for the first time, by talking about yourself and your own work instantly.
- Do not spam with links or push work all the time.
- If the goal is to work together, be clear about what you want, do not let the other person wonder what you mean or guess about your intentions. (See #4 of DO’s, have your ideas ready.)
- Do not tell/ask the person what THEY can do for you.
- Do not put a deadline on the communication. Be patient.
Social media made a lot of definitions unclear or even redefined certain terms, such as business, networking, connecting but also friendships, relationships and other terms on a personal level.
If you reach out to someone, please make sure to use proper terms. If it’s just for feedback, just say so. If you are “networking” make sure you know what the person does and how you can help each other. And of course, attend actual networking events where you can mingle and meet people in your industry, in person. Make sure to present yourself in the way I have mentioned above. The DO’s and DON’Ts qualify for both online and offline.
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” –Keith Ferrazzi
If you need any help setting up a (social media) strategy plan or want advice on how to approach people in a professional way, let me know. You can reach me through the contact form or through firstname.lastname@example.org.