Three huge ideas to build your networking momentum

Networking Momentum

By Brooke Ballard, {grow} Contributing Columinist

When I think about any high point in my professional career, I can attribute the win to networking momentum.

I’ve put a lot of stock, time, and energy into these wins.

However, I feel like nowadays people think networking is a quick fix.

In fact, when I Googled networking I came across articles like:

  • Networking Success In Just 10 Minutes A Day
  • How To Network Your Way To A New Job In Just 5 minutes A Day
  • The 5-Minute Networking Plan

To which I’m like, “HUH?!”

My networking wins did not happen in five minutes, ten minutes, or even overnight.

To me, networking is best suited as a daily, ongoing task that can take years to return a solid investment.

It also takes a wholly human effort.

Foundations of networking momentum

You have to have a solid structure in place for networking to drive growth.

For me, there are four key areas I use to secure valuable connections within my network:

  1. Online events & groups
  2. Mobile
  3. Social media
  4. In-person meetups

For instance, I first heard Mark Schaefer speak at Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing World in 2013 (SMMW13 — the online event).

I had read his blog many times, but never commented or interacted.

I may have shared his posts to Twitter, but I honestly can’t remember.

At that time, I was probably a lurker, or defined as grey social media.

But after hearing him speak, I needed more.

I had to get to know Mark … I wanted to connect with him as a “big thinker” who could help me grow as a marketer, and also grow my network.

To do this I connected with him on both Facebook and LinkedIn.

I disclosed information about myself, why I wanted to connect with him, and complimented his way of thinking.

Mark accepted my connection requests and a few months later asked if I wanted to meet in person in NYC.

After a few failed attempts at getting together in NYC, we were finally able to meet.

And that’s when our networking momentum grew exponentially.

Sure, there was a return on investment for my personal growth previous to having lunch, but the more time I invested in the relationship, the bigger returns I produced.

I’ve had financial returns on my relationship with Mark as well.

As I invest more in our relationship, I expect those type of returns to grow.

New Networking Age

With the regular use of social media to furiously thrust people into our networks, I think we think we’ve pushed the easy button.

But if you look more closely to those connections, I bet you’ll find that 98% of those don’t turn into a solid return that’s measurable.

While social media is impressive in its ability to connect us to each other, I think we’ve hit an evolutionary stage where we’re going back to in-person meetings to grow more closely with connections who can bring our network to the next level.

What’s old is new again, and face-to-face is the preferred meeting choice of most executives.

Side note: I think Skype and Google Hangouts are unique ways to fulfill the face-to-face needs when location is working against you.

The major drawback with using only online forums, groups, mobile, or social media to connect is the high rate of decline.

Once you e-meet someone growth is usually stagnant, where I’ve found an in-person meeting usually pushes the relationship to the next level.

In just the past three months I have secured the following in my professional career with high-level, in-person networking:

  • A new social media client (she came from Mark’s blog to my blog to a free consult and converted to a client)
  • A new partner in a soon-to-be launched sub brand for B Squared Media
  • A new gig as a part-time Lecturer at Baruch College in NYC
  • A new consulting client
  • Two paid writing engagements

Each one of these wins started online in some capacity, moved to social media (I include mobile here because much of my networking is on the go), and eventually moved to some IRL (in real life) — outside of a screen for the most part.

The new consulting client and I used GoToMeeting to connect since she’s in Canada, but we still made an effort for face-to-face connection.

There are also some freebies in there which also add to my bottom line since I would have had to spend money on these free perks.

Each of these dots were connected only after months, even years, of networking. And each involved the human element of a face to tip from a peripheral connection to a direct and personal gain.

Why Face-To-Face Matters

I love social media and online marketing.

I love my digital friends, too.

So why does face-to-face seem to play such an important role in networking returns?

  1. Trust is taken to the next level: When I read what you’re typing, or hear what you’re saying, I’m still missing what your body language is telling me. If your actions match your words, there’s trust. If they don’t, I’m a little more wary about your level of authority, your trustworthiness, and your intent.
  2. It’s TRULY two-way conversation: I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes on that call I’m responding to tweets, or checking mail, or watching my dog sleep peacefully in her bed. Not always, but yeah, sometimes. When you’re looking someone in the eye, whether digitally or in person, the level of interaction is cemented in what you can physically see.
  3. Tone & voice are much easier to understand: We’ve all gotten that cryptic email or tweet. I find these are especially hard to decipher when you’re just getting to know someone, but when you can look them in the face and receive context clues (and see body language), it’s easier to understand the meaning behind what’s being said.
  4. It makes our connection, and network, more human: With the increase of information, and an emphasis on vanity metrics like followers, and number of fans, I think many of us want to move back to what’s “real” — and when we’re with real, live people we to more easily express feelings and emotions, as well as mirror the emotions of our connection.

For me personally, the best ROI has come not just from networking, but from taking networking offline to an in-person meeting.

And while we’re experiencing growth and innovation with online mediums and social media, there are distinct advantages to thinking “old school” when it comes to making the most out of your connections and network.

Do the greatest networking investments take the most time? Do they have to happen in person, or can they happen only online with no virtual or in-person help?

I’m curious to know if online or offline networking has yielded the highest returns for you. Let me know in the comments section below.

See you in the social sphere!

Brooke Ballard for {grow}Brooke Ballard is an in-the-trenches digital marketer & owner at B Squared Media. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter.

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