Networking is one of those things that comes easily to some people but not others. I fall into the latter category—I don't consider myself to have a “sales” personality, and I'm more of a listener than a talker. But regardless of which type of person you are, there are several simple methods of growing your network and making more meaningful contacts, and that can be vital for your business. For instance, what's the biggest mistake you can make at a networking event?
It's an obvious thing, but sometimes we need a reminder. If you're at an industry event, don't spend all your time talking to the people you already know. This might be more difficult for the introverts among us, but it's important to use these networking events to actually—you know—network. You can even make a game out of it—sometimes our sales staff will collect business cards from each person they talk to and present them at our next sales meeting to see who got the most.
If these events are uncomfortable for you, try setting yourself a goal. For something short, like an hour-long coffee social, tell yourself you're going to meet five new people. If it's a longer event, split it up a little—talk to two or three new people, and then give yourself a break before jumping back in.
This doesn't apply only to networking events, but really any social interactions you have. Make people aware of what you do, but also be aware of what other people do. Listen. Pay attention. If you're not comfortable with chit chat, ask an open-ended question and just let the other person talk. “What got you started in this business?” “What do you like most about it?” It helps people feel closer to you.
And when you see this person again, show them you remember. People like to work with people they like, and it's a whole lot easier to like someone who shows interest in you than someone who doesn't.
Use Your Social Network Sites Wisely
We don't really think about it, but most of us are in a bit of a rut on places like Facebook and LinkedIn. We're friends with people we know or have worked with, so it's a little like being in a bubble. What shows up on your feed is basically the same over time. With platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, you should periodically look for new people to connect with or follow—people who are experts in something you want to learn more about. Adding just one or two people a week will diversify the content you see in no time.
You should also put some thought into what you post on your personal accounts. Linking to articles you found interesting reminds your friends and followers of what you do and gives them a chance to learn more about it at the same time. If the time comes that they need someone in your field, they'll be more likely to remember you.
Growing your network doesn't have to be such a daunting task, and the more connections you have, the more your opportunities for business deals, partnerships, and career growth. Talk to new people whenever possible, listen to what they have to say, and stay in touch. Remember: it's not who you know, it's who knows you.
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.