Social Networking for Business
Copyright 2006 Sharon Housley
Associations and trade organizations are great places to meet individuals. Usually organizations have a common theme, and it is an understood implication that all members participate to improve themselves and their businesses.
Whether it is a chamber of commerce or a trade association, members have common problems, issues and concerns. By sharing issues and resolutions, members can benefit by the experience of others. Many business owners participate in organizations, not only to network, but also to hopefully circumvent some of the pitfalls encountered by other small businesses--learning from others.
Many trade organizations provide forums for networking. In some cases, these might be private online newsgroups, casual meetings, or even professional events with speakers. In order to take full advantage of these networking opportunities consider these tips.
Who You Know.
It is often not who you know, but who they know. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen someone put-off someone who is clearly a beginner only to learn that the "beginner" is the brother or friend of a contact they've been trying to meet for weeks.
Be honest. Pretending to be something that you are not, or implying you can deliver a product or service that is outside of your abilities, will foster an environment of distrust and potentially harm your reputation. Keep in mind that networking is viral?vital? and if promises are not kept, word will spread. Establishing yourself and firm as an honest, reputable company.
Keep conversations to strictly business subjects. In a business environment, it is important to focus on safe non-emotional topics. The last thing you want to do is alienate or offend a potential client because of an outspoken view on a controversial topic. There is a time and a place for everything and discussing political views or cultural issues is not a generally accepted business topic. Bearing that in mind, it is also important to be aware and sensitive to cultural differences. The Internet has opened doors to a global market and respecting cultural differences is critical to establishing strong business relationships in the global marketplace.
Now is not the time to be a wall flower. Whether you participate in social business events, or monitor trade forums, it is critical that you participate. Participation will help you distinguish yourself in your industry. Attempt to remember individual personal details and foster introductions among others in the industry.
Stay positive. It sounds simple, but it will really impact how others view you. If you are constantly negative and pointing out the flaws in others, it will reflect on how others view you. Presenting the best and positive business experiences will enhance your image.
Provide genuine assistance to others. Whether or not they are able to reciprocate, networking is viral?vital?. Helping others will establish you as a useful member of your business community and will endear you to others. If you are unable to help an individual, attempt to refer them to someone who can.
A little research goes a long way. Be sure to research people and companies in your business community. Knowing their common goals and interests will build topics for discussions.
Acknowledging the need to connect with others to grow and expand a business may seem like common sense. Cultivating business relationships and interact with other small businesses is often mutually beneficial and should not be underestimated.
Networking is about building relationships and mutual interaction benefiting both parties. Being proactive and following up, you can have a network of contacts that you will be able to access quickly when you need them. Whether by more traditional means, such as in person or over the Internet, personal networks are essential for furthering your business. Relationship networking is give and take, be sure to help others in your quest for help.