On Friday I had a debate on twitter with a Canadian career coach where three very flawed beliefs became apparent:
- The best networkers only use face-to-face networking
- Small business owners don’t have enough time to use social media to network
- Using social media to find a new job is fundamentally different to using social media to attract new business
Mmmm, this conversation was ever so slightly ironic given the fact we were having it on twitter. To be fair to the other person, social networking may not be as main stream in the small business community in Canada as it is now with the UK small business community.
In my biased view, the best networkers are selecting the right networking tool for the job, not just only using face-to-face networking. If you decide to ignore online networking or offline networking you are handicapping yourself compared to your peers and competition. The ability to lengthen and deepen your networking reach is SO much quicker and easier if you are prepared to use online networking. In fact, this can be done in odd moments of dead time when you are at your desk. No more need to turn up to endless mix and mingle networking events hoping to meet the right person. But, to quickly strengthen a relationship ‘in real life’ interactions, such as a phone call or lunch taken together, beats online networking hands down. Maintaining regular contact or ‘touchpoints’ is possible with face-to-face networking tools such as phone calls, but tools such as e-mail, skype messages, social networking sites and forums are much easier to keep a meaningful dialogue going between phone calls and in person meetings.
There is this perception that you need to spend oodles and oodles of time on social media to use it effectively to generate new business. Actually, this isn’t true – and if you compared the amount of time I spent on social media to someone who used purely face-to-face networking to market their business, I would probably be spending less time overall.
As someone who uses phone calls , LinkedIn, twitter to find and build a relationship in its early stages, this means I don’t:
- have any travelling time to network
- endure and pay for badly cooked breakfasts
- need to listen to endless 60 second pitches (often badly delivered)
- pay for costly annual membership fees
- spend time on 1:2:1s with under-connected members of networking clubs
As someone who chooses to use both online and face-to-face networking, my networking works around the needs of my business and my family. In real terms this means that most mornings, unless I am booked for a full day’s workshop, I take my kids to school, rather than getting up far too early to go breakfast networking... Let’s be honest, who is really at their best at 06:45 in the morning?
When time is tight – such as when you run your own small business – online networking gives you greater flexibility than face to face networking. Twitter and LinkedIn are permanently on – which you can’t say the same for formal networking events.
Then finally, unless I am missing the point, using social media to help you find your next role, is actually very similar to using social media to find new business. Let me explain:
- you are still looking for referrals and introductions
- you are still selling something – but not by pushing your product on other people
- successful people target the right people to meet and build up a relationship with
- successful people showcase their credibility and personal brand through what they are saying and writing