Networking 101: where to go, tools to use and why you should care

Business network

There’s an old adage: It’s not what you know—it’s who you know. But when we are starting out in business, our networks are often limited, consisting of former colleagues, friends and family. And while these people will help get you on your way, very few of us can rely entirely on them for business success. That’s where networking comes in.

In today’s social-media-powered age, there are plenty of things you can do to connect with others online. For example, you can use a combination of social media platforms to begin building your networks:

  1. LinkedIn. The obvious place to start, LinkedIn remains the most powerful site for connecting professionals to each other. Make sure to create your LinkedIn profile with enough personality to attract quality contacts.
  2. BranchOut on Facebook. This is a very quickly growing app available through Facebook. It’s like LinkedIn but works from your existing Facebook friends and fans, allowing you to grow networks quickly.
  3. The others. If your business is consumer-friendly, by all means look to Facebook to create Fan pages, Google+ to create profiles, and so on.

BUT—and this is the big “but” in the networking landscape—you need to remember that networking is not about technology, but about people. That means you must get out from behind your computer and meet people. In the flesh. Here are three tips to guide you:

  1. Fish where the fish are. Research your customers, partners, and suppliers. Understand their needs and expectations. Find out which events they attend and which conferences they go to—and then tag along. There are many great events each week across Australia. To find out what’s on, check out and subscribe to The Fetch for your city, and search for Meetup groups near you.
  2. Seek the firestarters. When you get to these events, don’t just hide behind your coffee. Go along with a couple of questions in mind. Research the other attendees if possible, and introduce yourself to the movers and shakers in the group.
  3. Fill the gaps. Think about where you need help with your business, and network your way into the gaps. Need help with WordPress? Meet up with the WordPress Sydney gang. Keep up with the latest from the design world at Pecha Kucha. Or learn about the changing world of smartphones, apps, and business at Mobile Monday.

The most important thing to remember about networking is that you have to show up in order to reap the benefits. There’s no point doing the work, researching the groups, finding the parking, and then not turning up. Remember: As with most activities in life, networking actually gets easier the more you do it.

Make it your goal to attend one event per month, and go from there. Take a friend if you find it easier that way. And most importantly: Have fun. After all, all work and no play makes… well, you know the story.

How have you had success in networking?

  • Agree with your points Gavin. To some, networking is a chore – it’s so much easier to sit behind your desk and beaver away at what you do. I haven’t been “out there” networking for a while so really should kick my butt into gear and go meet some groovy, well, maybe just nice, friendly people who want to have a conversation with me and not thrust their business card in my face at the first opportunity…

    • Thanks Ruth – we shouldn’t underestimate how important it is for us to meet people. This social dimension to work is often overlooked. The nice thing these days is that we choose who to work with – and that means connecting first. Amazingly, business follows. But like you say, it starts by getting out from behind your desk!

  • Great post Gavin.

    I have found linked in terrific for networking – but beyond just making sure my profile is OK.

    Joining linkedin groups also broadens my networks, gives me great new ideas and also a platform to ask questions and get opinions from other professionals. Getting your profile going is just the start.

    • I agree that LinkedIn is awesome. But I’d encourage you to take that further. Find affinities with people in your network and invite them for coffee. You never know where that will lead you!