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?