Networking is an essential part of every corporate individual’s lifestyle. But, what do we mean when we talk about it? Essentially, networking involves building your own collection of contacts across your own and other industries. In effect, you’re creating your own little network. It gives you people to contact and talk to when you need help, guidance or wish to seek out different business/career opportunities.
The most successful people in the world will have vast networks of many different contacts. After all, you’ve probably heard the common phrase that it’s not what you know but who you know. This tends to imply that knowing a lot of people will help you get through life a lot better than mere knowledge alone. Some people are lucky enough to be born into families that already have a strong network of professional contacts. For those of us that don’t enjoy this luxury, we need to start networking from scratch.
Today, you’ll see some expert tips that’ll help you expand your list of contacts in no time at all. There are loads of different approaches to networking, and you don’t have to use them all. Nevertheless, your chances of growing a large and expansive network will increase with the more approaches you try. Without further ado, let’s get started:
Use social media
Social media is already a social network, meaning it’s the perfect place to start meeting new people and expanding the list of your professional contacts. It’s important to create lots of different social media accounts across various relevant platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn are perhaps the most traditional places to start networking effectively. However, Twitter can also be a very useful tool to use.
With Facebook, you can start networking by joining different groups or liking certain pages. The trick is to find groups that are relevant to you – such as a small business association in your local area. It doesn’t need to be ‘official’ but it can be a place where lots of small businesses join together to discuss things. As such, it’s the ideal place for you to speak to other professionals and start gaining contacts. You find others in these groups, then message them privately to start networking and establishing your relationship.
LinkedIn feels like it was specifically created to help people network with others. Here, you have a professional profile that can be seen by others on the platform. You can also find others and connect with them, starting conversations about different topics. One key way to start networking on LinkedIn – and all forms of social media – is by creating or sharing content. We’ll dive deeper into this in the next point in just a few moments!
Lastly, you have Twitter, which is perhaps the most social of all social media platforms. From the outside, you struggle to see how it can be useful for networking, seeing as it’s mainly full of memes and superfans arguing with one another. However, if you use Twitter wisely, you can find lots of like-minded professionals to start conversations with. The main trick is to use the search feature and look for different hashtags. Here, you’re able to search for specific topics to find other people talking about them. Then, it’s just a short step away from replying to tweets and sparking a conversation. You follow the people who talk about things similar to yourself, slowly building a little community on Twitter. It’s very easy to block out all the rubbish on Twitter and create a feed that’s full of things relevant to you. As a result, you can start speaking to people and developing professional relationships.
Create & share content
Speaking of social media, you really need to know how to use it effectively to get the most out of your networking opportunities. As mentioned above, content is king in this domain. If you can share or create content across different social media platforms, it helps to create a dialogue with other professionals. Especially on LinkedIn, where you can put together blog posts for people to read. From here, they might comment on your posts or share them for others to see, bringing a flood of professionals to your profile. Thus, you have more opportunities to engage with others and spark conversations that could lead to professional relationships, expanding your network.
Similarly, you can use content outside of social media. Creating your own blog or YouTube channel is a brilliant way of bringing people to you. You’ll attract the right audience by creating content around topics relating to your business or career. Again, it leads to people commenting on your work, sharing it with others, and you can slowly build a little community around your blog/channel. Then, you get followers or readers contacting you privately about possible business opportunities, and the networking is complete.
Join a Freemasonry Lodge
Freemasonry is one of the weirdest and most secretive things in the world. A lot of people have theories surrounding the organisation, but at its core, it is just a fancy club for lots of professionals to join. Generally, members of Freemasonry Lodges are people within positions of power throughout different industries. As a result, if you can find a way to join a Lodge, you’ll be in a great place to start networking with a lot of powerful people.
Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest approaches to networking on the list. It’s not as simple as buying the right ties for all masonic lodges and just walking up to the door and being let in. No, you typically need to know someone that’s in the lodge before you can join, and there are different requirements that should be met. Still, it’s worth looking into if you really want to get your foot in the door with a lot of new professional contacts. Freemasons are known for looking after their own, so plenty of new opportunities can be gained here.
Attend lots of industry events
Industry or business events are very easy to find nowadays. In this weird post-covid world, a lot of them are virtual instead of physical. In either case, attending them can be a brilliant way of gaining networking contacts. The whole concept of a business event means that professional individuals will all come together in a similar space. Therefore, you have so many opportunities to talk to people and exchange contact details.
For some, this can seem a bit scary – and it will require you to step outside of your comfort zone. The key to getting the most from business events begins with choosing the right event. Don’t attend events that have absolutely nothing to do with your business – you will struggle to find people to talk to. Try to find ones where you actually have a purpose for being there, so you find individuals that are worth networking with because they can provide you with something beneficial – either now or in the future.
Don’t be shy; every one that attends a business event will do so with the intention of networking. It’s a pretty weird concept when you think of it like that. Yes, the event itself is a reason for going, and you can gain a lot from it, but people tend to use events as a way of talking to other industry professionals. Don’t be afraid to approach others or have others approach you!
Hire a diverse and experienced team
When running a business, you can enjoy better networking success by carefully selecting your employees. Ideally, you want to hire a diverse team that’s got years of experience behind them. This gives you access to employees that could have wide networks of their own. As a result, you can use their contacts to help your company network and start relationships with other businesses or professionals.
For instance, you can hire someone with years of experience working in a particular industry. Consequently, they can point you in the direction of some excellent suppliers that they’ve worked with before. Taking advantage of their existing professional relationship can help your business form a new one with a supplier or contact. The reason you need a diverse team is that it should help you tap into lots of different networks, expanding the one your business has. Plus, diversity is also crucial in the workplace when it comes to generating new ideas and developing a productive team. In reality, networking is just a little bonus you get from it!
On that note, you’ve now seen a range of approaches to expand your list of professional contacts and grow your network. One key point to add is that you should avoid putting pressure on people while networking. It’s a good idea to take the first step and reach out, but don’t go overboard. You shouldn’t berate people or keep messaging them if they haven’t replied. Understand that you won’t be able to network with everyone, and that’s okay. Learn when someone isn’t interested in talking to you and you can avoid awkward situations where you keep trying and trying, making yourself and your business look a bit pathetic.