Published on Dec 4, 2009
Business networking used to be all about becoming a member of a local professional club or group, and chatting up anyone that would listen to your elevator pitch. These tactics might still be beneficial in some applications, but now-a-days you're best off heading online.
According to a recent report by Forrester Research, Inc., four of five US adults who go online use social media at least once a month. They also found that the most rapid growth in usage was among adults 35 and older.
For today's small business owner there is a crazy amount of options available to them on the various social networking websites. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube are just a few of them. Each site has its pro's and con's, and better uses from a business perspective.
So how does a small business owner capitalize on all this chatter?
First off, don't just use one site for everything. Be sure to line up your intentions with the right site. For instance, if you are looking to make a connection with someone at a specific company you might use LinkedIn to connect from person to person until you finally reach the intended connection. If you simply want to announce a new product launch or a limited time promotion, tweeting it on Twitter would be a great place for that. If you have a training video or footage of any promotional appearances, YouTube is your best bet.
Keep in mind that there are always new sites popping up as well. Ryze.com is another business networking site, similar to LinkedIn, which may prove useful. If you do want to convert the online meeting to a face-to-face encounter you could try using Meetup.com. This site helps you find groups in your local area to join.
No matter which tool you use, networking online is still basically about back-and-forth communication or information sharing. Even though it's digital, some basic tenets of networking haven't changed:
Lastly, keep the conversation going by making sure to read other people's blogs, tweets, status updates, etc. In this way, you'll be able to stay connected to your peers and network with the best of them.