The web has opened up a whole new world of networking that millions of business people are making the most of every day. Join them! This guide explains:
There's no substitute for meeting people face-to-face. Use the web to help find networking events. The BNI is completely dedicated to business networking, and has regional meet-ups for local businesses of all types. Meetup is best for finding more specialised groups. The British Chambers of Commerce and your local Regional Development Agency are also great resources for finding events. Search for your sector and visit the main associations or societies for it, and check out their events listings. Signing up to any email newsletters they offer is also a good idea.
Social networks - sites where you build up an online network of contacts - give you access to millions of people and are almost always free to use. Particularly usefully, you can usually see your contacts' networks, which opens up new lists of people you can approach or get introductions to as a friend of a friend. They're a great way to keep in touch with contacts casually - online messages are more informal than a phone call. They also keep you at the forefront of technology - meaning both the speed with which you can pick up information, and the way people perceive you. The sites give you access to regular updates from contacts, so you can target events that the people you want to speak to are attending.
Of course we're going to say Smarta! But the more the merrier - Facebook has universal appeal and is good for the personal touch, and you can create a group for your business. MySpace tends to be more popular with young people, and is particularly good for the music industry and creatives. On the specifically business-focused side of things, try LinkedIn, Ecademy or, of course, Smarta. Twitter has also become popular in the tech and media industries, and is great for handy updates.
People take different approaches to online etiquette, but as a general rule of thumb, add anyone you've met in person as a friend or contact, and send massages if you had a rapport with them or would like to discuss something further. Adding someone you haven't met yet want tends to differ from site to site - on MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter it's fine, whereas on Facebook people are sometimes more selective, as you have access to more personal information - send a message first if you're unsure.
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