Master the Art of Networking

Networking is a skill that should be thought of as a reciprocal process whereby the purpose of meeting someone is to share information, resources, and ideas to help get you where you need to go next.

According to Cheri Hill, CEO of Sage International, Inc.—who discussed the topic of “Power Networking” at today’s Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association luncheon—networking is not about working a room and shaking as many hands as possible. It’s not about exchanging as many business cards as fast as you can, and it’s certainly not about trying to sell something. Below is a video interview with Cheri discussing more on this concept:

From a business standpoint, networking is essential for growing a company and its resources. As the CEO of a company who has helped work to establish over 20,000 businesses, Cheri recommends that professionals should take the time to get to know their ideal customer so that they can obtain a better picture of what they hope to achieve through networking. By growing your network, you not only amplify your reach, but expand your ability to help and support people.

Enter Social Networking

While networking in person is ideal, the migration toward social networking cannot be ignored. From a recent article in Fortune Magazine entitled “The Real Way to Build a Social Network” (which provides an overview of Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s 2012 book The Start-Up of You), the author writes:

Many people are turned off by the topic of networking. They think it’s slimy, inauthentic. Picture the consummate networker: a high-energy fast talker who collects as many business cards as he can and attends mixers sporting slicked-back hair. Or the overambitious college kid who frantically e-mails alumni, schmoozes with the board of trustees, and adds anyone he’s ever met as an online friend. Such people are drunk on networking Kool-Aid — and are looking at a potentially nasty hangover.

The article also goes on to mention that Dale Carnegie’s idea of “winning” friends is a misnomer, and that building a strong social network not only requires genuine, authentic interaction, but begins with the people you know best as opposed to the ones who are “out there” at the cocktail parties and such. He writes that people’s extended networks are frequently larger than they realize, which is why an early tagline at LinkedIn was “Your network is bigger than you think.”

In addition to the above-mentioned article and book, below are a couple of reads I would recommend for finding and growing your professional network online:

  1. How to Attract the Right Social Media Followers for Your Business
  2. 5 Rules for Building a Strong Network Via Social Media
  3. 13 Brands Using LinkedIn Company Page Features the Right Way

Now it’s your turn! Do you think social media has replaced the need for in-person networking in certain cases? How has your concept of networking changed over the past five years with the advent of increased social media usage? Do you follow any specific rules of engagement when it comes to networking? Do you think “old school” networking (the inauthentic kind) still has its place in some situations?

2 comments

  1. Love this article. My experience tells me that networking is alive and well in both traditional and non traditional forms. To me though, quality is far more important than quantity. Not matter the method, face to face or Social Media, I believe you should build SOLID relationships with people and businesses where there is common ground. I believe that the problem with Social Media is that it can encourage folks to feel like they are networked because they have such a large network of “followers”. If you have 15,000 followers on Twitter and you are following 15,000 people, then it is likely you are caught up in a narcisstic “follow me and I will follow you” cycle that truly delivers no value. If however, you take the time to build solid relationships, based on give and take and a sincere interest to share value, your network might be small, but it will be much more valuable both professionally and personally.

    • Vin – Thank you for sharing your perspective and wonderful advice. I agree with you that it’s truly about the quality and not the quantity of connections that matter when building both your personal network and your business. I am now interested in reading the new book I mentioned, which was co-authored by one of the founding members of LinkedIn!

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