When one thinks of networking, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to think back to the days of cocktail parties where cheese cubes ran the show. It’s also something a lot of people dread, for no other reason than they fear it. I believe that’s only because people don’t understand it. At the heart of the matter, networking is about building relationships.
It’s simple math: the more people you know (have in your network), the better the chances that you will be able to call on someone when you need help – to expand your client base, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find some better workers. This type of meeting people has always come easy to me, for which I thank my parents immensely for always encouraging me to introduce myself to people I didn’t know!
My latest instructor Samantha Lapedus wants us to push our boundaries and promote ourselves in the PR world; while this initially seemed like a simple task for me, the catch was she wanted us to reach out to people we didn’t know on LinkedIn.
I’m all for connecting with people on social networking sites, however I tend to be of the mindset that LinkedIn should be used to maintain relationships, not develop them. Personally, I only connect to people I know and even then, it is more a selective process for individuals I connect with. Apparently I’m not alone; LinkedIn use among millennials is among the lowest, at least according to PEW Research Center.
Where I have seen a return on investment is Twitter; the way I use it has changed, and with it, how I set up connections and relationships using that social media platform. (I was even approached for a volunteer opportunity because of my Twitter following and timeline!)
I go through my followers and delete spam accounts and the like. But I’ve gone from having less than 50 followers at the beginning of the school year to having over 200. And that is all because I’ve started to develop better Twitter habits, but better social networking habits in general.
I find that Twitter is the best place for me to make first contact with people, and to start to build up that ‘superficial’ relationship. But as with traditional networking, everything is in the art of the follow-up. All the connections in the world does you absolutely no good if you’re not leveraging them. You need to take relationships offline to truly benefit from your networks. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, but it does have to be time-efficient. Know exactly what it is that you want to get out of your network, and try to think about how you can benefit your connections. There are many networking quotes out there, but the one I like is this:
Networking is more about ‘farming’ than it is about ‘hunting’. It’s about cultivating relationships.
Dr. Ivan Misner
Going back to the my instructor’s assignment, maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. According to the Pew Research Center, LinkedIn usage is especially high among the educated (bachelor’s degree holders and up), and high earners (those making $75,000 a year or more) — exactly the types of people with whom you’d want to connect professionally. It is also the only social networking site PEW measured that showed higher usage among 50-64 year olds than among those ages 18-29, which means that those with more professional experience (and who are more likely to be in a position to hire) are on the site. (Forbes business article)
In the end, the picture and quote probably sums it up the best:
For further reading, check out this LinkedIn ‘Hacks’ article, and comment below to let me know what you think about networking and LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you!