What is the Definition of Networking ?
- The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
- The establishment or use of a computer network
If you are mastering the art of networking the classical way, involving in person meetings, business cards and phone calls, then you know how to turn contacts into connections that will help you get your next job or win your next business deal. Right ?
If you are a great connector and know how to make the most of your connections through traditional in person conversations, it is not enough anymore. If you don’t know how to use social media to engage people on a personal level by being part of online communities such as Linkedin, then you are simply out of the networking game. Since 2004, when the term social media was first used, people want to do business with people they trust and share similar interests beyond work but without necessarily being in some kind of physical contact via phone, video-conference or in person.
In the digital age, aka, the internet world, you cannot be a networking pro if you don’t know how to leverage your online presence to attract the right people who will help you reach your professional and business goals as well as your personal projects.
I think today, even the most stubborn executives admit they need some kind of presence online, they might no become social media artists, but they know that personal branding is not a buzz word and actually it is a pretty old concept that first appeared in 1997 in an article published in Fast Company Magazine, from management guru and author Tom Peters:
“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” -Tom Peters
If you want to become a more confident and engaging person to establish effective relationships both online and off-line, start following those 3 steps:
Step #1: Create A Brand Called “ME”
What makes you unique ? In a global economy in crisis, every job seekers and businesses must differentiate themselves to stand out of the crowd. The only constant today is change and very fast change in our highly connected global world. To win the global war of talent you need to know who knows you and how you are perceived. What is your reputation online? Are you in control of what people find when they Google “your name” ? What is your unique value proposition ? Do you know what your competitors have to offer ? What gives you a competitive edge ?
In a previous post “Me Inc, Brand Yourself and Find your Ideal Job”, I have listed the five steps to help you build your personal brand .
The materials to build your brand can be identified through the same process of strategic planning used to market products or services. Make a “SWOT” analysis starting by various assessments of your core personal values, the principles that guide your life, your life purpose or mission, your vision, what are your strengths, weaknesses ? In which environment do you thrive ? What is the type of boss or ideal client you want to work with ?
It is important to be really YOU, authenticity is key, don’t try to be someone you are not but discover who you really are using tools that uncover hidden talent and what intrinsically motivates you.
For more in-depth understanding of personal branding I recommend you to connect with Dan Schawbel recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times and author of the #1 international bestselling career book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future.or how to build a powerful brand to achieve career success. Check his Personal Branding Blog too.
Step #2: Identify Who Is Your Audience
It is tempting to be everything for anybody and everybody but this doesn’t work. As the leader of your own brand you must inspire the people you want to attract. What is it about you that is appealing to people who want to buy from you or hire you ? You need to change shoes and imagine being in those of your potential customers/employers. This is very important because the way you package your experience in your resume or select social media platforms depends on how your audience is listening and communicating about their professional and personal interests.
If you want to learn about your target audience, start LISTENING first : search key words used by people interested by your expertise and thought leaders. Invite those people to connect on LinkedIn and see what they talk about and how they interact in specific groups (you can be part of 50 groups on Linkedin). Use Q&A, start a Twitter account and read other people’s Tweets.
The same way an HR person or a hiring manager will get information about you via Google, you can learn a lot about companies by connecting with the employees online. If you want to learn about a specific country before accepting an international assignment, contact expatriates and locals who live there. Once the contact is made online, try to follow-up by a phone call or Skype or meet in person to share about your needs and how you can also return the favor by helping those who helped you. Do not hesitate to contact people you don’t know. People online are much more open to connect and talk to you even if you are a perfect stranger. Read more about How to Connect With People You Don’t Know
Step #3 Engage your Connections Through Meaningful Conversations
Once you have an idea of what your prospects’ interests are, then you can start defining your goals and make a “content marketing“ strategy to help you connect with the right web audiences. You can use any kind of platforms such as blogs, videos on YouTube, Google + or images on “Pinterest“ to create and distribute relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience, Use online “content curation“ tools such as Scoop.it to gather and disseminate knowledge in the topics your audience is interested.
You need to choose carefully your content strategy based on the specific goals you want to achieve. For example, If your goal is to increase you ranking in search engines like Google, then maybe it is a good idea to start a professional blog and comment in other experts’ blogs. Do you want to identify and invite new contacts ? then start a debate in a Linkedin group discussion. Maybe you want to demonstrate your capability to engage consumers online as a marketer ? then build a Facebook fan page and try to attract active followers on Twitter.
Whatever you need to do, be consistent about the image you want to project. For example do not use your personal Facebook profile to broadcast your personal life. You may use your personal Facebook page to show a more casual image of yourself but avoid venting your frustrations, be negative in general, don’t share your political or religious opinions and keep private things that are too personal.
Always assume that anybody can potentially see everything you post online and once out there it stays FOREVER !