Authentic Networking

How you can build and maximize your contacts in todays economy while remaining genuine

Treat your social networking like face-to-face networking

Online efforts need to be as strategic as traditional networking. The focus should never be on just accumulating names and “friends.” Just like your face-to-face interactions, you want to develop quality relationships. “People are looking to expand their database when they should be looking to expand their network,” says Diane Darling, founder and CEO of Effective Networking Inc., a personal development company that teaches successful networking techniques. “There’s a big difference; you don’t just want someone’s data.” Think back to the pile of business cards. Having the card doesn’t mean you have a connection. When you send an invitation to connect with someone, type a message explaining how you know the person. If they are in your geographical location, extend an invitation to meet in person. When using social networks, Michelle Thompson-Dolberry, director of advocacy marketing for American Express OPEN, is an advocate of the “90-10 rule”—nine out of 10 of your messages, like Twitter tweets, should be about personal things. The 10th message can be about something business related. TwiTip, a blog about Tweeting, says: “90% of what you share should be made up of personal insights and thoughts along with a heavy dose of helpful links, while 10% should be made up of messages that more directly benefit you.”

It’s not all about business

Talking about your interests outside of work can help ease the pressure of connecting with someone new. It also shows that you are genuinely interested in making a connection with this person. Volunteering, hosting an event, or serving on a committee are also ways to network without the stress of business.

Include everyone

We tend to take those closest to us for granted. Reach out to family, friends, old classmates, and current and former work colleagues. This is an easy network to fully cultivate, without the same pressures to develop new relationships. They may be able to lead or refer you to the appropriate person you need to connect with. You never know who they may know.

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