Ask any business owner the definition of networking. More than likely you’ll hear something about developing relationships and finding new prospects by attending meetings and events. But if you Google networking, the results focus on computer networking, social media and the Internet.
Networkers also find themselves divided, with the majority identifying themselves with either one tool or the other. Either you are a networker (attending events, shaking hands, building relationships) or you are a social network marketer (posting on twitter, writing articles and connecting with fans).
So what happens when the two worlds collide?
Done properly either tool may result in brand awareness, strategic alliances and increased sales. Combining both tools enable business professionals to leverage efforts to yield even greater results. The following is an example of what can happen with traditional networking meets social network marketing.
LeTip International is the oldest privately-owned networking organization in the world. LeTip’s foundation is built upon highly structured weekly meetings. The time-tested structure of building strong relationships with Members acting as independent sales representatives for each other has created millions of dollars in “tips” and groups around the globe.
CEO and President Kim Marie Branch-Pettid has a vision of moving LeTip forward by capitalizing on social media and allowing Members to connect in communities on- and off-line. While other networking organizations had begun to use social media, Branch-Pettid wanted to embrace the true nature of social media, building a community versus using social media as just another website.
Working with local marketing communications firm Three Dog Marketing, LeTip International launched a Social Network MarketingTM program that combined training, online relationship building and good old fashioned networking. Though the program is still in its infancy, already several valuable lessons are apparent.
1.) Whether online or in-person, the same networking rules apply.
It turns out that Social Network MarketingTM and traditional (in person) networking are not that different. Both methodologies thrive on building relationships, supporting other business professionals and creating value for your product or service. Social media platforms allow networking groups to create the same atmosphere of support, education and community that successful groups create at their on-site meetings, but social media allows for others to experience this process and easily share it with their friends and business associates.
2.) Use online networking to leverage in-person networking.
A compelling testimonial is an excellent tool for any networking professional. LeTip Members are encouraged to deliver testimonials for deserving fellow Members. Nothing builds trust and support like fellow group Members bestowing kudos for a job well done. Social media allows those same testimonials to go out to your online community, multiplying its value. Now, not only do these kudos appear to your friends and networks, the next time a prospective client searches online, your testimonial appears unsolicited. Social Network MarketingTM also serves as an excellent follow-up tool, a great way to invite new guests and an excellent way to find out about other networking and educational events and who is attending them.
3.) Use networking to build credibility and your repertoire of skills.
LeTip’s in person meetings have always provided Members and guests the opportunity to learn from each other and to build public speaking, sales and other skills. Online communities provide the opportunity for Members to share valuable pieces of education and training with their fellow Members 24 hours a day, whether answering a specific question, highlighting your own writing, or sharing a particularly helpful article written by another expert. The value of this community of fellow business professionals to share with and learn from is multiplied by networking online and in person.
Once you get past the terminology and pretense associated with networking and social network marketing, both tools have more in common than one would think. The differences between strategic network marketing and in person networking make the combination of the two even more effective – the opportunity to leverage your time and efforts and complement the strengths of both tools.
Networking is networking, and networking is good for business.