Lots of people are talking about social networking. They’re generally talking about the online version of what people have done for hundreds of years: interact with numerous people, realizing that some will become valuable relationships (personal or business) and some will not.
Online you simply log into a site as the personna you have assumed (maybe what you really are, maybe not so much), and make yourself available to multitudes of others who are there as the personnae they have assumed (maybe what they really are, maybe not). You may be reading this blog as part of your online networking activities. (I’m glad you found me if that’s the case. Welcome.)
The version of networking that we older folks have practiced for centuries is face-to-face networking. We participate in the chamber of commerce, sales andmarketing organizations, service organizations, religious groups…whatever. We show up in hopes of meeting like-minded people and people whose relationships may be valuable to us in the future. That may mean personal relationships or business relationships. Either way, it’s classic networking.
Online networking is easier for many of us than face to face networking. Face to face networking presents the possibility of rejection. “What if I get there and never talk to anyone?” “What if I talk to someone and they have no interest in me whatsoever?” Being a wallflower makes for difficult networking! Fear that people might spit in your face must make it even harder!
When you meet people face to face as opposed to online, you are seeing the whole person. How they present themselves, how they dress, speak, their table manners, grooming… you get a pretty good feel for what a person really is in pretty short order. Phonies are usually easy to spot. Sincere people are too.
I’m old school. I do some online networking, but I don’t spend a lot of time or put a lot of hope into it. Give me the chamber of commerce meeting. Shaking hands with a total stranger tells you more about them in a couple of seconds than you’ll learn in days about an online acquaintence.
Need more global reach? Whatever business you’re in,there is a state, national, and probably an international association whose members are in the same industry. The suppliers you need and a network of supportive people who do the same thing you do are both there.
Want a global reach that includes potential customers? There are state/national/international associations of people who do what your targe customer does. Go there. Get on committees. Rent a boot at their trade show. Sponsor a meal or coffee break. Speak there yourself.
Face to face human contact is still the best way to meet and evaluate people. But you have to shut down the computer for a while to do it. Get online now and look for the groups of people who meet your criteria for good networking potential. Then make plans to go to their next meeting. You can probably go as a guest. When you get there, find out who the president is. Walk right up to him/her and say you’re there for the first time. They’ll be happy to see you, and if you ask…they’ll even introduce you to enough people to get your started.
Go ahead. Do it. It will be a great, inexpensive investment in your business and personal futures.