Many people learn about the power of networking during their professional career. Networking can be the key to building a strong professional relationship with an individual. However, is it more important to network online versus offline these days? Where do you go to connect with professionals? These are all questions we discussed in our last #ConnectChat with Lisa Chau, a social media strategist and PR and marketing consultant. To learn about how you can develop and maintain a strong network, here's a recap of the chat:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Dartmouth alumna who worked at Tuck School (PR), Geisel School of Medicine (education), and Dartmouth (alumni relations). A few summers ago, I taught "Introduction to Social Media and Professional Networking" at MIT. For a better idea of my trajectory, please see my Spotlight Alumna interview with Wellesley (pages 3-6).
What major changes have you seen in the way people network over the past few years?
We are becoming a relationship economy. Read Ted Rubin’s work about Return on Relationship™. Social media revolutionized the way we network. Technology makes connecting with people and companies much easier and quicker. This chat is a great example of how social media has changed the landscape of conversation.
Can you explain a little more about how social media has affected networking?
People use social media to create personal brands. Harvard Business Review and Forbes contributor Dorie Clark writes about this extensively. People can find your digital reputation before they ever meet you in person. Your blurred online and in-person reputations are more valuable than the company you currently work for. Social media can also be dangerous if you are not thoughtful in what you present publicly.
Is Facebook a good place to connect with individuals?
Facebook is more about connecting with people I already know. Twitter is more about connecting with people I want to know. For instance, Facebook gives me a lens into the personal lives of Ted Rubin, Bryan Kramer, Tim McDonald, Tami Cannizzarro, and Sarah McAloon.
How can you reach out and form networks with people on Twitter?
For professional reasons, I love Twitter -- I can Tweet anyone with an account! Facebook is much more closed for direct contact. Twitter is great for leveraging ambient presence -- maintaining a constant presence without being intrusive.
Another way to form networks on Twitter is through chats. Also, if you travel for business, consider focused tweets by geo-location Lazqa for vetting new connections.
What tips do you have for people forming professional relationships on LinkedIn?
Join LinkedIn groups and participate in discussions. Provide useful insight. Highlight your area(s) of expertise. Mentor! Always add value.
Ask what and how you can help. Give before you take. Ted Rubin and Tim McDonald are good examples of this. Listening is the first step to learning how you can add value.
I co-authored more tips with Daniel Vahab in "LinkedIn and Other Social Media an Essential Tool.”
What are some other things people should always remember to do when using social media to network?
When using social media to network, always add value, be polite and grateful. Respect other's views. Also, build your network *before* you need it. No one wants to be approached only when you want help. Mind your relationships always.
Listen, engage, help and love. It's about that simple.
What are the things people should avoid doing when using social media to network?
When using social media to network, don't just take -- don't be that person. Don't speak more than you listen. Avoid forcing your views onto others. Keep an open mind. You aren't always right. Learn before you teach.
We talked about networking online, but what about networking offline? Is it just as important?
Absolutely! Networking offline is just as important as networking online. Offline meetings might be more important. In person closes the deal, personally or professionally.
I cannot emphasize enough: Networking online is not a substitute for networking offline. If possible, always meet in person. Mike Bloomberg advises that Obama should be golfing every weekend and taking people to dinner every night. He says, "You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with.”
There are many different offline networking events out there. How do you decide which ones to attend?
Attend offline networking events that best align with your goals. Do the guest lists include people you want in your network? Make a point of being a regular at specific networking events so you really build a presence for yourself. Ally with hosts.
What type of preparation should you do prior to attending a networking event?
Be prepared to speak intelligently about the focus of the networking event. Practice talking points and elevator pitches. Without appearing like a stalker, research people on the guest lists that you want to meet. Find common interests and goals.
When preparing for networking, be ready to listen. Also be approachable and be prepared to meet different people.
How often do you recommend attending a networking event?
I try to attend 1-2 networking events per week in person. Depending on schedules, others might go to one per week or month. Avoid burning yourself out, but do pick certain ones to attend regularly, both online and offline. The more often you go to the same networking events, the more people will be able to remember you. Stay in their minds.
What kind of introduction should you give when you first connect with someone at the event?
Introduce yourself with a smile and confident handshake. Name, current projects and what value you add. "How can I help you?" In your introduction, you might also add an interesting fact to help the other person remember you, i.e., "I was an Olympic rower."
How can you make sure to stay in touch with an individual you meet at a networking event?
Stay in contact with people you meet at events by sending follow-up emails within two days of speaking. Many won't respond to your initial follow-up email. Especially if there is no immediate opportunity for collaboration.
You can also exchange information (can be Twitter handles) and send a quick note couple days following the event.
Link to them via LinkedIn on the spot and add a follow-up reminder. Social media can be a game changer to maintain engagement.
If you reach out to that individual but don’t hear back, what should be your next steps?
Use Twitter to continue chatting about common interests. However, mind subtle cues. If someone repeatedly does not respond, move on. Don't force a connection -- or rejection.
What are some ways to keep track of the people you build professional relationships with online and offline?
Use whatever method works for you to keep track of people you meet online and offline. I'm a business card collector. Others might be more comfortable with the mobile app options available these days. Or Evernote. Or Excel. It's preference.
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