Networking in the digital world seems to take more time and effort than ever. Emails, LinkedIn, and networking events are just the tip of the iceberg for today's marketers. On top of the time investment and all of the different platforms to keep track of, there's also the matter of knowing how to network. For a lot of people, it doesn't come easily. Maybe your networking skills are a little rusty or you're afraid you'll clam up in a crowded room of desirable contacts. Regardless of the challenge ahead, the following tips from successful marketers are sure to help you out when it comes time to make that great connection.
Be the world's wingmanJim Nichols, VP marketing, Apsalar
At in-person events, I spend the majority of my time finding people who are alone, and then striking up conversations with them. Partly it's about networking, but mostly it's simple human empathy. It's kinda like being a wingman for a friend. We all know what it's like not to know anyone at a function, and are grateful in those circumstances when someone makes an effort to reach out. In my experience, the fringe benefit is that by helping others I have made amazing personal connections that have stood the test of time. It's a particularly good approach when you are a shy person, because it takes your head out of worrying about yourself and puts your mental focus on being of service to others. On being the world's wingman.
Take advantage of visibility
Kent Lewis, president, Anvil Media
My networking secret is to leverage LinkedIn Pulse to increase awareness within and outside my network. I'm able to demonstrate my knowledge and experience regarding my subject matter expertise as a digital marketer and to stay top-of-mind by automatically entering the status updates of my LinkedIn connections. LinkedIn Pulse is free, easy and highly visible. Not only am I able to tap my LinkedIn network, but I use Pulse as my personal blog platform and promote the posts across my social profiles and electronic collateral. Unlike a personal blog where you have to build a following from scratch, Pulse has a built-in readership via your personal network (which is notified every time you post a new article). Of course I recommend sharing the post to your network through the LinkedIn share icon, as well as through your other social profiles including Twitter and Google+. If your article gets the attention of a Pulse editor and gets featured in the feed, you can expect a significant boost in readership, although this is rare if you are not already a high-profile subject matter expert. Bottom line, Pulse gives me the added visibility and credibility I need to grow my network.
Create value and be consistent
Tom Edwards, chief digital officer, agency, Epsilon
There is a give and take to networking. There are times when you are creating value and others when you need to leverage the network. The key is to ensure that you are creating more value vs. constantly burdening your network. I focus on creating value for my network when possible through insights, content, connections, and advice. It is important to understand that every interaction leaves an impression. The key is to be consistent and deliberate about the value you are creating.
Don't worry about missing out
Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction
Don't have FOMO. There is a fundamental belief most people have that networking is simply a numbers game. Collect as many handshakes and business cards as you can so you can put them in LinkedIn and if you do that enough something good will happen. If that's your approach to networking, I'll tell you what will happen: you'll waste a lot of your precious time.
Networking is about building connections and connections are more than just people you're LinkedIn with. The connections that are truly valuable are people you have actual relationships with. So, when you find yourself talking to someone you feel is a kindred spirit, spend some time with that person. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Don't look over their shoulder to the next person's name tag. Don't have fear of missing out on whoever is next and overlook the person that's in front of you. Building real relationships will be far more valuable to you in the long run.
Participate in leadership
Reid Carr, president and CEO, Red Door Interactive
There are so many organizations that can benefit from your skills and experience. Put it to work and, by doing so, other community and business leaders and influencers can see you in action. Choose wisely about where you focus your efforts, because you can't just show up and look pretty, rather you must roll up your sleeves. Pick the right organizations and nonprofits based on the right intersection of their need, your passion, and its reach. You want to make sure that your work has impact and gets noticed. Great work for great causes builds both your reputation and your network in the most positive and rewarding way.
Don't discount the fresh faces
Jay Friedman, COO, Goodway Group
Two tips for networking smart in our industry. One, attend events. There is still no better way to make a connection than being in person. At each event I attend I make it a point to introduce myself to five people I don't know. Yep, sometimes it's someone that isn't helpful for me to know now, and may never be. But sometimes it's great. And life is a long time. I never know where people will end up. That leads me to my second. Pay attention to those early in their career that really get it. Those are tomorrow's leaders. Help them get where they want to go in the short term and they'll appreciate you for it when they're in larger roles.
Cast a wide net
Michael Davis, head of creative, Conversant
My networking strategy uses Twitter and Facebook with one goal: Wide, not deep. Not to be misunderstood with a lack of care, but it feels creepy to go deep unless there's a specific ask -- and never to sell. I spend 30 minutes every day layering relationships by sharing with friends of friends, and those who follow my followers, even if I'm not connected to them. It's a stepped approach. In turn, my followers see me bring new people to the conversation and taking care of their followers first. During my ritual, I'm reading and commenting as much as I can. I don't always share self-serving content. I'll often send a tweet that helps a friend reach my stepped (future) followers. I'm doing the same with big influencers. I'm happy Ellen and Yoko follow me. My networked friends go out of their ways to include me in conversations, retweets, and constructive commentary. The result was felt recently, when I learned of a four-year consistently networked, digitally layered Twitter friend being hired as a leader at my company. Never saw her in "real life." When we met in the office the first time...we hugged! That's established virtual trust. How awesome is that?
Do your homework
Doug Robinson, CEO, FreshDigitalGroup
I like to have my team build dossiers of specific attendees at events that we can provide great solutions for our partner with. So this includes researching their career path, social channels, and even direct reports to get a clear picture of how they operate on a day-to-day basis. We know that here at FDG we add a lot of value to our clients, and we want to have as much information on and/or about them before we engage and invest time, energy, and knowledge to help them be better. It also helps us understand the person, not just the company or brand, and for us that's equally important. So we take all networking efforts as investments and, like any investment, you should really do some research.
Invest in yourself first
Jordan Berg, co-founder/partner, Questus
The great Warren Buffett cleverly articulated "you've got to learn to earn." Your knowledge and the value you bring to your prospects and clients is directly attributable to what you know. What's my strategy to stay on top of your game in this industry? To remain competitive, you've got to bring value.
In this fast-paced world that we live in, it is imperative that we expand our learning on a daily basis. One of the best ways I do this is by listening to the brightest influencers and visionaries in the marketing industry. Due to the advances in technology, we're always digitally connected. Whether I am driving to the office, traveling in an airplane, or on my downtime, I connect through YouTube, podcasts, and various other media platforms as my prime source to listen to the most knowledgeable gurus of our industry to keep me informed, motivated, and inspired.
The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself which serves as a catalyst for change. This ultimately aids in building momentum for your own personal development and success. You can find lightning fireside chats, webinars, keynote speeches, and TEDx talks on just about any topic. So, stop wasting your morning commute or ride home listening to music, sports radio, or better yet, Howard Stern...and believe me I love Howard Stern. Instead, learn something new because "an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
Chloe Della Costa is a contributing writer and editor for iMedia Connection.
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"Businesswoman whispering something to her colleague" image via iStock.