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Networking in 2020 made a 180-degree turn due to the COVID pandemic. It stalled altogether in the first part of the year. It’s now catching up slowly but surely.
About a decade ago, this unforeseen u-turn in the nature of networking was preceded by another major milestone in its genesis: the dawn of social media.
Business cards became redundant as people would add each other on LinkedIn or Facebook instead of exchanging pieces of processed wood with contacts printed on them. Meetups were arranged on the Facebook events platform and invites were no longer hand-written.
Networking for entrepreneurs is very much generational even now. Digital immigrants are brewed with decidedly different yeast than digital natives. Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Y, & Gen X all have the specific features that set them apart from each other and share a common sociohistorical medium, that affected their formation as a class.
However digitally advanced they may be, gents in their 50s are much more likely to end up in a cognac & cigar bar after a social event, while millionaire teens may hit each other on Instagram and create a private group to keep connection evolving.
As a social media-centered CRM, Nimble sees the value contributed by social media networking to the achievement of one’s business goals. Technology takes the awkward edge off the communication and allows for all parties to reply at their comfortable pace, in the comfort of their homes.
Let’s get this topic a bit of the post-COVID flavor and liven it up with a lot of technological spice.
Read on to find out:
- How to network as an entrepreneur in the era of social media
- Why is networking important in business now more than ever?
- How to get more connections that are long term and meaningful.
- Business networking tips and techniques for introverts and extraverts
- How to build a network for a small business
Conventional Networking Vs Networking V. 2020
Let’s start with the formal definition of Networking
What is Networking?
Networking is a method of growing one’s social circle of connections by engaging in social activity, traditionally an offline event, like a meetup or a cocktail.
What is Networking in 2020?
First, we cannot but intertwine the role of social media and technology in networking nowadays. On top of that aspect, if we were to define networking after the first wave of pandemic and partial relaxation of quarantine restrictions worldwide, it would be something along these lines:
Networking v.2020 is a set of techniques and methods to grow one’s social & professional circle, that includes a wide range of online activities, extensive use of digital tools, [like social media, CRMs, forums]; and which eventually may lead to an offline connection.
Traditionally we used to call live events a networking activity, nowadays, specifically with COVID-related impact, the online medium is growing its muscles significantly in the realm of nurturing your business contacts.
Just a few simple questions to substantiate this new reading of networking:
- How many people on your Facebook friend list do you personally know or met in real life?
- What percent of the people you follow on Instagram have you personally met?
- Have you taken any of your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook virtual friends beyond the comment/like/share boundary?
Whatever your replies to the above, the point is: we live in a society that allows us to know other people pretty damn well without ever meeting them in person, which leads to a smoothly flowing conversation offline. You may feel like you know the person inside-out based on your communication and thought exchange on social media.
What is the Importance & Value Of Business Networking?
During the complete lockdown many people, even the introverts, missed talking to live people. We were all prisoners in our own homes, missing human communication, and the most primitive exchange of emotions between the samples of the species.
But what other reasons are there that make networking for entrepreneurs a hot topic? Why bother and work on your circle of connections?
Dopamine & endorphin are part of the equation
Not as readily available, as when you scroll your Insta feed or watch a high-blood pressure thriller, but dopamine is still part of the chemical reaction of meeting new people and sustaining fun conversations. Even if you may feel bored at times, dig deeper into personalities you bump into and rewarding chemicals will be released into your bloodstream.
WOM power. Create a bookmark in their brain
Do you know you’re five handshakes away from anyone on this planet? This is an old adage and things may have shifted.
But talking to people about what you do puts you in a bookmarked position in their brain. So, the next time someone mentions your profession, (say, digital marketing), your interlocutor’s brain will trigger your conversation in their mind. If the conversation was lively and positive, the person is likely to recommend your services.
Polish your interpersonal skills
No one is born an amazing networker. Yes, some people may be more extraverted than the others, but overall, you get this skill perfect through practice – just like with everything else.
The more you converse, chat, laugh, and joke, the better you get at it.
Boost your status
You know how you go to check a person’s profile on LinkedIn or Facebook and realize they have 4999 friends and thousands of followers?
Whatever your attitude to social media, you cannot but be impressed with the number. Yes, we know, quantity doesn’t mean quality, but your social media following still works towards your status.
Business referrals & connections
Quite honestly, conventional meetups may not be the best place for business, as entrepreneurship networking has taken on a different form nowadays. Busy people don’t do after-work meetups. Only desperate needy investment-searching startups do. But if you choose your events wisely [like an industry-leading conference with celebrity speakers], chances of getting to know decision-makers increase exponentially.
But still, whatever form you choose to meet people professionally, you are likely to land some business or useful connections.
Top 13 Networking Strategies For Entrepreneurs
This is a list of our empirical networking tips for entrepreneurs, that we believe in at Nimble and see our clients practice religiously to drive their business’s growth.
The Preparation is Half The Battle Won
Depending upon which stage of your business you are at, you may decide to partake in networking activities religiously or leisurely.
The more desperate you are for business, the more planning should go into the scheduling of your social calendar. Once you are at a comfortable stage, you may take a more entertaining & socializing approach.
The plan must include the research of your competitor’s social media profile & followers, understanding of the top local business gatherings, registration in the business chambers, selection of partners to accompany you on a hunt for business cards, purchasing of the tickets to the hype industry events.
Stay In Touch With Former Connections
Make a list of all the people from your college, high school, ex-work places, that you lost touch with. Check out their LinkedIn profiles and hit them up with a coffee invite. It’s an innocent but effective way to reconnect and revive those ties.
Volunteer: Be Of Service To Your Community
There are hundreds of volunteering opportunities out there. Give a hand in a local dog shelter. Extend your support to a political campaign for elections. Fill in the request to be a volunteer for a social event, like Diner en Blanc. Not only do you get to enjoy the drive of partaking in such a chic exclusive event, but you also grow heaps of connections when you strike a small talk with people while explaining to them how the event works.
Volunteering is great for your self-esteem, your public image and it’s certainly amazing for growing your social connections.
Give Lots. Expect Nothing. Be Grateful To Receive Anything
“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.”
– Bob Burg
If you come to a networking event with dollar bills tattooed across your face, people will notice it and get deterred. Even if the tattoo is only imaginary.
You know how you come to a dating site and the first thing she asks is what you do and your favorite island for vacation? Or he wants to make sure from the very beginning that this is your very recent bona fide picture on a profile? Cringeworthy, true.
Similarly, even when you are desperate for business, talk yourself into a mindset, where you are just going to meet fun people, and exchange some human communication. Everything else is a bonus. A pleasant surprise. If any referral ever comes out of it – amazing!
Try and genuinely get down to the true colors of the person you end up chatting with and offer value before asking anything of them. If the person is mannered enough, they will always reciprocate your genuine interest in their personality with their inquiry about your career. If they are not mannered enough, they will never send business your way anyway, being absorbed with their best selves.
“Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the “give” part.”
Social Media – The Digital Oil Of The Networking
Do you know how your car wouldn’t move without oil? Or wouldn’t move that far?
This is what social media has turned to be in the COVID era networking. It enables the entire vehicle to work smoothly and perform its every function frictionless.
Using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok is not optional anymore – it’s a default setting expectation. Create authentic engaging content, sustain your public image, contribute to meaningful conversations with industry leaders in comments.
Networking Tip For Introverts: Find Another Bird of a Feather
Don’t just hide in the corner if you are an introvert.
Go exploring the darkest corners and find another person who shies away from the center of the crowd. I promise you, this is going to be the best conversation you have had, even if you stop at “Hi, how are you? Another introvert hiding in the corner? Do you mind if I join you?”
Engage Your Team and Clients
If you run a family-type or local business, it’s a great idea to find a way to involve your clients in some brand-awareness activities. Having some incentives or club-like feeling with a socially-responsible purpose helps get many clients eagerly involved.
Not only do you turn your client base into your advocates, but you also get to know them better and understand their needs and fears so that you can timely correct or enhance your marketing initiatives.
Be Ready To Present Your Product
If your company produces something small, make sure you have this product with you to showcase. As a business person, it’s only natural you may have something of this kind with you after the working day, so if you present it to a person chatting to you, this is not going to look like a “grand piano in the bushes”.
If you are a digital nomad, have an iPad on you with a high-quality client case or a presentation – should the circumstances be favorable, you can always brag a bit about your achievements and blame that dry white.
Kick it With Your Local Business Community
If your business is local or national, your path starts locally. Small and medium businesses grow together, so joining one of those local SMB clubs or chambers is both inspirational and educational.
You will be surprised how much support and expertise there is among the small business communities. Best thing: there is no snobbism there, pure unadulterated ambition and readiness to get up after you fall.
Invest Your Time Wisely: It Pays To Be Choosey
No event is like the other one. You only have 24/7 a week. Screening your events is a good habit that will save you lots of time and effort. You will learn to discern the ones with the highest quality people in no time.
Keep Your Connections Warm
It’s way too easy to abandon a newly-created connection – we have all been there done that.
Use your CRM to:
- Segment your contacts as per custom tags [this allows users to mass mail a useful article for CEO-level execs or finance people, for example, in the matter of keeping in touch].
- Schedule an automatic reminder to send out a touch-base email to all networking contacts post-event and in a few months down the road.
- Ensure your CRM has the birthday date pulled for your contact base and keep sending personalized digital cards.
Be Like Nokia
Connecting people is a skill or talent few can boast of. Train this skill and polish it to perfection to grow your network by growing other people’s circles.
The introduction costs you nothing and may change a world to the people you introduced to each other.
Goes without saying, it’s super convenient too – when the time comes to invite them all to your birthday party – they will all know each other.
Bonus: if the 2 professionals who you introduced happen to recommend you in a common professional environment in a casual conversation: that sounds double impressive and trustworthy.
Always Ask To Connect There And Then
It’s a digital world and we carry our digital motherboard on us all the time – our smartphones. If you feel the conversation is flowing and the human rapport is established, don’t be shy to ask if you could connect with your interlocutor on LinkedIn. Or at least mention, that you are enjoying the conversation too much not to follow them on Twitter and do it right away, asking for their handle. If the person feels the same way, they will reciprocate right away.
There, the deal is now sealed! You are so connected.
9 Trending Social Networks For Entrepreneurs
Some entrepreneur networks are more efficient than others. We picked 9 of the currently trending social platforms for networking for business owners for you to check out:
Ways To Improve Your Entrepreneur Network
Here are our top empirical tips (or sacred commandments if you wish) on how to perform the best & most efficient social networking for entrepreneurs:
- Be religious about never eating alone. This Keeth Ferrazzi’s book is a Bible of an efficient networker. It does give out the main idea in the title though.
- Have a positive attitude. Don’t go there to sulk in the corner, but always hope to find an amazing personality to chat with.
- Give and then give more. It’s a great feeling to give. The earlier you reveal your altruistic side, the quicker your rapport warms up.
- Never expect any ROI, specifically immediate one. This investment is a long-term one. No quick returns to be expected. If you feel suffice with just having another versatile person to gulp a quick coffee with – the universe will conspire to prove you wrong and yield business from such a connection.
- Use & abuse digital means & tools. This generation is given the power that would be considered magic just a quarter of a century ago and people would be burnt alive for a couple centuries ago. This digital hen lays golden eggs and passing by without noticing the glitter of the gold is outright silly. There’s never been an easier way to deposit a positive charge into one’s emotional account: just double-tap or like a comment.
Networking for entrepreneurs with Nimble CRM
Any savvy business person – seasoned or budding, realizes the importance of networking in business to some extent.
Nimble clients love to network for a plethora of reasons and we make sure we introduce all the tools to precipitate the organic growth of their network.
Every functionality in our CRM is designed with social networking in mind. Clients get access to an impressively exhausting portfolio to every client in their contact list.
Nimble prospector, for example, allows users to quickly add their new contacts to CRM, enrich them, tag with the specific event name, send emails, engage on social media, and more.
Scheduling a reminder for a specific segment of contacts is also a few clicks matter, so is sending a group email based on a multiple segmentation filter.
If you are serious about making networking part of your lead generation engine, ensure your CRM is up for the challenge and keeps things easy for you.
Ready to turn net-working into net-funning?
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