As a somewhat shy introvert, the word networking makes me cringe and want to hide. I imagine a big open room with people throwing elevator pitches at each other all night. I know this isn't reality (for the most part) but the idea still doesn't sit well with my personality. So naturally I gravitate toward networking online. It's not only good for introverts, but it's also more convenient, more targeted, and further reaching. By networking online I've been able to get clients from all over the world (UK, Greece, Australia, South Africa and Germany, to name a few!) and have built strong friendships and business relationships with others I've met through the methods below.
The other week I attended an #ellechat with the topic of authentic networking. The word "introvert" came up A LOT as you can imagine, considering we were on Twitter. Other phrases that really got me thinking were "authentic networking" and "network intentionally."
Authentic networking means not approaching every new connection solely as a business opportunity, but as a new relationship.
It requires making genuine connections + being supportive of others in the industry. It means being able to joke, show flaws, and give real feedback.
The key to networking intentionally is knowing you can add value to that person's life.
It means reaching out to someone you are interested in speaking with, working with, or helping in some way. It can be as simple as leaving a blog post comment that adds value to the post. It's strategic in that you have researched the person or have connected with their content.
Now that you're thinking more about the way you that you network, let's see where you can network.
4 Places to Network Online
I am all about Twitter chats lately. I started with #ellechat and have jumped into #createlounge and #blisschat.
If you're not familiar, a Twitter chat is where a group of people discuss a designated topic at a specific time on Twitter, using a specific hashtag and being lead by a host asking questions. The chats usually last for an hour.
You can come and go as you please and get to know people before approaching them. You get to see the interactions happening before jumping into a side conversation, which is much more comfortable than if you were to do the same in person (I'm imagining the awkwardness of eaves dropping on an in-person conversation the same way you can on Twitter. Creepy!).
Leaving authentic, meaningful comments on blogs is still a great way to make a connection. The interaction isn't as immediate, and you may not get a response, but I've still met many great business connections this way.
Just make sure you're adding to the conversation. If you really connected with someone's post, let them know why. Start a conversation.
In January I joined the Female Entrepreneur Association, which is an international association based in the UK. Connecting with others all over the world is one benefit to internet networking as opposed to in-person. We have an amazing Facebook group where women share ideas, answer questions, and inspire each other daily.
It does come with a monthly fee, but that means everyone in the group is dedicated and motivated. Because of that, I can ask for a referral (someone to hire for a specific task) and know that it's more trustworthy. These aren't people just trying to sell themselves to everyone in the group.
To me, that's very targeted (intentional) networking. We're all interested in the same overall topic (female entrepreneurship) and help each other out with referrals and tips.
The first three were solely-online options, but it's still important to get in front of people and make face-to-face connections. What I like about Meetup.com is that you can get to know who is going to the event before you show up. You can check out their profile and see what you might have in common. There are also very niche specific meetups, so it's not just a general "business networking" event.
A general tip for in-person networking is to bring a friend along as a buffer. Limit your time talking with them and stand side-by-side rather than face-to-face if you do. Showing up with someone may help you feel more comfortable.
In the Comments:
What does "authentic networking" mean to you?
What is your favorite way to network online?