Networking is one of the most powerful ways to get the job, item, or information that you may be searching for.  Before the internet was created, people used to solely network at board meetings, conventions or at social gatherings.  Nowadays with the internet keeping everyone around the world plugged in and connected, online networking is a hugely successful way to make new contacts and keep in touch with current ones.  Networking takes effort, dedication and commitment.  There are several things you need to keep in mind before you begin heavily networking both online and offline.  Make note of these suggestions and you will find your networking efforts pay off!

Online Networking

Internet social networking is very effective.  Facebook is a wonderful tool for making new friends from around the globe and getting in touch with old friends you have lost touch with.  Not only is Facebook good for friendships, it is a great tool for forming online groups.  These groups are beneficial for those who enjoy certain activities or share a common cause, such as groups for sufferers of lymphedema.  You can upload pictures to your social media accounts and post as much or as little information about yourself as you please.  Many people use their social media accounts strictly for social purposes but you can certainly use it to make new business connections and promote your work. 

Networking Groups

If you are a small business owner then you know how important networking is to increasing your customer base.  Most entrepreneurs prefer to network with like-minded people so they can bounce ideas off of each other.  The best networking groups are those that have modest fees and offer plenty of online exposure for their members.  Search for a networking group in your local area. If there are not any groups that you feel satisfied with, start your own group! Affiliating your company with reputable networking groups makes your company look more credible in a customer’s eyes. 

Connecting In Person

 Face to face networking gives you the opportunity to practice verbally educating others about your business.  Many networking groups ask each member to make a one minute long presentation to the group about who they are and what their business offers.  After the presentations are complete, the group’s members pass out their business cards and offer appropriate referrals to each other.  Face to face networking is one of the best ways to network and secure business leads because it is your chance to prove yourself and exchange information with like minded people who could help you personally and professionally.  When you network in person, always dress in an appropriate way and make plenty of eye contact during conversations. 

Referrals And Leads

Be sure to listen during your conversation and show interest in what the person you are talking to is saying.  Even if their business can’t help you with what you need, a friendship might come out of the relationship or a future business contact might result from one of their friends.  Make sure to exchange business cards with the people you network with and try to arrange a one on one meeting with someone to get to know each other better. Networking is one of the most cost effective ways to market your business, and it also brings global and local communities closer together. 

The practice of networking properly should be a top priority for every entrepreneur who wants to be successful.  There are certain unwritten rules that everyone who networks should be mindful of. When networking in person, make eye contact with everyone who you meet. Be sure to smile, shake hands, and have one of your business cards ready to give to each person you meet via networking. Maintaining consistent eye contact is helpful in building and establishing trust with other people. Networking via a social media website should be done with the perfect mix of marketing and friendliness; it is fine to mention what you do, but other people will be turned off if you focus only on promoting yourself instead of building genuine relationships.  When you network with people effectively, you will gain more exposure, interest, and belief in your business.