Since I first attended a Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast in 2006 I have become at times quite a prolific networker and built up a large group of contacts who can help me in my business and in turn I hope I have helped and also done business with.
Doxbond cover a reasonably sized geographical area in the East of England so at times I have to spread myself quite thinly on the networking front which can take up quite a bit of time.
Just recently it feels like I have been cutting back on my meetings. Don’t tell any Business coaches but I have been working in the business rather than on it !
I attend one excellent monthly event which is well attended, I help the organiser out and it and gives me the opportunity to catch up and discuss various things with good contacts I have already established. At the same time I meet new people as well. A lot of the other groups I now attend less frequently just dipping in now and again to say hello.
I do though, spend a fair bit of time (my wife says more than I should) on Twitter. This enables me to keep in contact with a lot of the people I have met over the last five years. Sometimes its just nice to say hello, how are you and what have you been up to. If your relying on face to face meetings it could be 6 months or so before you see them next.
I am certainly not predicting or advising the downfall of networking groups here. I am a great advocate of the benefits of networking groups to SME’s But when time is short networking via Social media is a great way to stay in touch with those connections that have already been made. I am a Twitter person but Facebook (not a user myself) and linkedin to a certain extent can provide a great platform to keep in contact.
Don’t forget using things such as linkedin groups you can showcase your expert knowledge in the discussions which also enhances your reputation and gets you into discussion with more useful connections.
Once again don’t leave the face to face stuff out. You may well meet a host of new business connections through social media. But if you are potentially going to be generating real business for each other through your trusted contacts then of course it would be sensible to meet up properly at an event or for a coffee to discuss things in a more conventional setting. No matter what people say social networking can never fully replace human interaction on a one to one level. After all you never really get to know someone until you have met in person. Online conversations are limited.
I couldn’t imagine for instance ( although I wouldn’t turn the opportunity down) concluding a business deal via Twitter. It would almost always involve meeting, discussing and progressing the matters. That is how it should be and nothing can replace sitting down with another person to do this.
But Twitter/ Facebook can be a great for an initial introduction or to keep on the radar of your connections when time dictates you just can’t get out of the office.
So don’t forget networking is a joined up process and social media allows you to strengthen those links which can’t be a bad thing in a world where we seem to have less and less time.
Thanks for reading.