In a past post on LinkedIn, I mentioned that a future post would be about the very important connection between networking and your personal brand. And then LinkedIn announced a major change to their Company Page feature and I wrote a post about that where I shared some advice about dealing with their often-unexpected changes. Now, here we are, quite a while later, and I’m finally getting to it. Hope this sheds some light and helps you reframe networking as it relates to you and your business.
Networking is an opportunity to market and demonstrate your personal brand
As the Chief Connecting Officer of Bella Domain Media, one of my goals is to teach entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, small business owners and other professionals how to effectively and genuinely connect online and offline. As a self-described networking enthusiast (and some in the media even call me a “networking expert”), I wrote a book titled, I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Making The Most Out Of Any Networking Event” (Happy About Press), mainly because I know all too well that many entrepreneurs and most business owners dread this vital “marketing” activity.
Truth is, I’m fairly certain I was a somewhat “reluctant networker” at the beginning of my career. But today I believe that beyond self-promotion, networking builds community and creates healthier and stronger business environments. I also believe that networking online and offline is a necessary marketing investment in your own personal brand as well as your business and it never has to be a waste of time. Today, perhaps more than ever, your network has everything to do with your professional net worth and having effective and polished offline and online marketing (aka, networking) skills can play a key role in your success and professional/business development.
Networking as a marketing channel
In her book, Rules For Renegades (McGraw Hill), Christine Comaford said, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for,” and I, most definitely, agree. Years ago, when I first met Christine, and read this quote from her, I knew I had to include it in my book on networking and I did (chapter 7’s title page).
The truth is
It doesn’t matter if you’re focused locally or are looking for opportunities internationally, the most important source of referrals for new business or jobs can usually be found in meeting people face-to-face. Whether you do this by attending local or regional events in your city or flying to industry conferences a few times a year, those in-person connections can help you build your brand very effectively.
In today’s world, we’re lucky that we have both offline and online options for networking. But it’s important to use both if you want to build your brand and maximize your reach.
Social media marketing and social networking
Online, it’s important not to confuse social media marketing with social networking. Social media marketing is much more akin to traditional marketing in that it’s trying to achieve the same thing: sales, leads, interest and buzz.
Social networking, however, is a different animal with different rules and outcomes. While it can be done on many of the same platforms as social media marketing (e.g, LinkedIn, Twitter), for me, social networking is mostly about staying in touch and making connections and also the way I develop and cultivate those connections.
In the distant past, people used a Rolodex and a phone. Then, we gravitated to email as a way to stay in touch. Today, with online social networking tools and activities, you can not only stay in touch with people you meet in person, but you have the ability to create new connections with people you’ll probably never meet face-to-face. And since there is so much more online information available, you can easily research commons interests before meeting with a customer, collaborator, or vendor before you’ve ever met and then have a few conversation starters available at your fingertips.
You can also connect with potential partners and customers from all over the world.
It is important to note the distinction between social media marketing and social networking because both serve a purpose in your brand-building efforts. You just need to be clear about what you get from each tactic.
When engaging in social networking, you need to come at it from a place of generosity and mutual benefit, not a sales angle. Try to present yourself online as you would at an in-person event. You’d never just meet someone for the first time, shove your business card in their face and ask them to buy what you’re selling, would you? While there are some people who do this, it’s not the best way to boost your brand perception. Be human and be consistent online with your brand, just as you would offline.
I also often see people present themselves one way in their website or profile, but they would never be that way in person. Such inconsistency can hurt your brand. You want to authentically present you and your brand online the same way you would if they walked into your store or met you at a meeting or interview.
While it’s true that some industries, such as finance or academia, may require a certain formality due to legal issues or government regulations, for the most part social networking is about presenting yourself as human. After all, YOU are your brand, especially if you’re a solopreneur, consultant or small businesses owner. The idea is to be consistent with the same voice, same values, same style online as well as offline. Of course, use caution: you can’t be overly familiar with someone online whom you don’t know very well. That road typically leads to disaster.
You can use social networking platforms to follow-up on connections you make in-person to help reinforce your brand and demonstrate your commitment to cultivating a relationship. When you meet someone at an event, exchange cards and invite them to connect with you through your social media channel of choice. If you do this, they are more inclined to click-through to your profile and learn more about your business and brand than if you’d sent an email with a website link in it. Make sure you take the time to create a polished profile that reflects your current and future brand. I often tell my clients that resumes are about the past, and they need to cover yours, but I believe it is your profile on LinkedIn (or bio on Twitter), that is about today and the future. It should include information that indicates how you are positioning yourself for the work or opportunities you want to attract or be found for today and in the near future.
Why networking matters
In many circles, there exists a belief that the bigger your network, the more successful you and your brand may be perceived. There is a certain cache to how far-reaching your connections are as well as a perception that a large and high-quality network connotes a certain level of success, and that you have valuable resources available to you to get things done. In recent years, I’ve even seen job postings and contractor opportunities posted where they state that if you don’t have at least 250 connections on LinkedIn you shouldn’t even bother to apply.
Be nice or leave and don’t be shady
Both online as well as offline networking simply reinforces who you are in the world and the way you are in the world as a professional either supports or hurts your brand, whether we’re talking about a personal or business brand. Your social interactions with people via social media or at events need to be polite, kind, thoughtful, and worded with care. Without being intentional and making the time to consistently do this as part of your marketing, you will fall short of your professional goals.
I’m running out of the recommended amount of words for a professional blog post, so if you’d like to read eight tips for achieving offline and online networking bliss, check out my interview in a chapter of the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business by my good friend (and frequent collaborator) Maria Ross of Red Slice.
Here’s a teaser of the first two tips:
1) Follow up online with offline contacts: When you meet offline, instead of just sending an email, immediately connect with new contacts through online social channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, etc. And to keep that connection fresh, don’t wait too long to do this; I suggest within 48 hours. If you’re at a conference, as tired as you might be at end of day, it’s smart to send a follow-up as soon as you can so the connection is fresh in both of your minds.
2) Personalize the note: Do NOT send invitations to connect on a social channel without personalizing the message. I cannot emphasize this enough! Say something meaningful or relevant to your conversation or social interaction. Remind them how you met or compliment them on their website or blog. How great is it that we live in an age when it’s so easy to take this opportunity to make that connection deeper? Some social networks, like LinkedIn, require you to have an email to connect. If you don’t have their email, in some cases, you can mark them as a “Friend” but again, make sure you personalize the message and add a P.S. apologizing for using the friend card.
Does your marketing budget include a line for networking expenses/activities? What’s your best success story about a new connection you made via social networking?
I’m the author of I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???, the #1 pick on the Inc.com 2010 Business Book Wish List. As CCO for Bella Domain Media, I share my insights and practical advice as a professional development speaker and trainer, and consultant/coach. This post was inspired by my contribution to a chapter about social networking in the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business by Maria Ross, which was released April 1, 2014. You can check it out here.Read More
These days it seems as though practically everyone I meet wants to be thought of as a “Super Connector.” And believe it or not, I never set out to become such a thing myself. However, I have been told time and time again that I am one, so I’ve decided to just go with it and own the designation.
In that spirit, and since I’m here to show you how to make your connections matter and that anything IS possible, I thought I’d share an October podcast interview I did with Tom Libelt of Smart Brand Marketing titled, “How to Become a Super Connector with Sandy Jones-Kaminski.”
Take a listen to this 20 min discussion and see if you don’t come away with a few new ideas for developing the skills needed to become a real connector, super or otherwise.
Interested in more mind-blowing learning content like this? Sign up for Making Connections Matter invites HERE.Read More
As a follow-up to my popular first post containing 10 of my favorite quotes related to networking, I wanted to share 10 more of my faves. I’ve since come across these on my own, or they were shared with me via comments left on that last post. These quotes will hopefully motivate you as well as the most seasoned networkers (like me!) out there to embrace the upcoming networking season.
Here are 10 more of my favorite quotes to help inspire and motivate us all to grow our professional networks:
1) If you want to go fast, go along. If you want to go far, go with others. – African Proverb (Courtesy of Theresa Timpson)
2) A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. – Chinese Proverb (Courtesy of Ahamad Alisah)
3) Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark. – Jay Danzie
4) Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se. – Charles Eames
5) It isn’t just what you know, and it isn’t just who you know. It’s actually who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living. – Bob Burg
6) Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. – Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien (Courtesy of Laura Babbitt)
7) Help the people in your network. And let them help you. – Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, author
8) The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. – Robert Kiyosaki, author
9) Listening is the new prospecting. – Brian Tracy
10) Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. – Anthony Robbins, life coach, self-help author and speaker
Bonus quote (and one you’ll hear in my effective networking presentations): “Don’t be a hit and run with your new connections. Make an effort to stay in touch or in occasional contact with folks you meet with whom you want to stay connected.” – Sandy Jones-Kaminski
Do you have your own quote about networking?
P.S. If you like this type of thing, you’ll love my book – I’m at a Networking Event–Now What???: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Any Networking Event. Just sayin’…
Need help developing an opportunity-generating, online and/or offline networking strategy for your business or career? Check out my Work With Me page while you’re here.Read More
THIS EVENT IS BEING RESCHEDULED FOR A DATE IN OCTOBER AT A VENUE IN SF! PLEASE SIGN UP TO RECEIVE NOTIFICATION OF OUR FUTURE EVENTS. YOU CAN USE THIS LINK TO BE IN THE LOOP: http://eepurl.com/khfH1
It’s time for the 1st Pay It Forward Party in the East Bay! Join us on Wed, Sept 18, 2013 in Emeryville, CA.
*What’s a PIF Party you ask?
Have you ever been frustrated with the outcomes of or behaviors at some of the networking events you attend? Or maybe you’ve witnessed behaviors like the old “I’m talking to you, but try not to notice my eyes scanning every other person’s nametag that walks by please,” to the “So, Debbie, what’s Stillheart?” and then their eyes glazing over because you, your situation or words didn’t immediately appear to be a prospect for them.
Well, a few years ago, I recognized that there had to be a better way to make and cultivate quality connections, so I started having my own networking event know as a “PIF Party.” PIF means to for pay it forward, and at a PIF Party, that’s what people do. The general theme of the event is that each guest comes to the PIF party with the intention of helping others first. And, as can be expected, each person leaves feeling good about the community service they’ve provided by having helped others as well as the help they themselves may have received.
Please feel free to share the invitation with others because the more the merrier!Read More
Yesterday, July 10, 2013, the App Store from Apple turned five and, thanks to the ecosystem they created, our team launched BetterHalf, a new iPhone date-planning app for couples looking to keep their date nights alive.
Ours is the first iPhone app created to make planning a couples’ night out as easy as a few simple taps on their smartphone. Couples can search for movies and restaurants nearby, or at any designated location, choose one of each, and then set a “date night” by sending the date plan to their significant other.
In a nutshell, BetterHalf offers a faster and easier way to craft, coordinate and carry out better dates with your better half.
Our app began, as an iPhone app idea submitted to an Applits monthly contest, and after winning “Staff Pick” it became a product of the collaboration between the platform and the creative and development team at BetterHalf LLC which consists of my husband, Keith Kaminski, serving as CEO and original designer, myself (biz dev and strategy), Bryan Dryja (dev) and the newbie co-founders of Applits (BetterHalf is the first app they’ve gotten launched – yay!), Keith Shields and Joshua Tucker.
A completely personalized iPhone app, it is basically designed to help long-time or married couples and domestic partners craft, coordinate and carry out thoughtful dinner-and-a-movie dates with their significant other. BetterHalf is currently being offered for download as a $0.99 paid app.
After downloading the app to both iPhones, couples can access their significant other’s favorite movies and restaurants, sync calendars, buy tickets or make reservations – all through the app. It’s designed as a collaboration app to assist with crafting a regular date night or to celebrate a relationship milestone or special occasion.
As Keith said, “I’ve learned the hard way that my spouse likes to have some input on our date nights, so creating something that made it easy for me to plan dates with her, or her with me, became essential to keeping our date night ritual alive and well.”
BetterHalf’s main features include marking certain movies and dining locations as favorites for a partner to see, sending, accepting, and/or rejecting each other’s date suggestions, purchasing movie tickets directly through the app, and viewing details and reviews of restaurants.
Future version plans include suggested date ideas, notifications to remind each party to plan a date if the couple hasn’t been on one within a specific amount of time, personalized gift ideas for celebratory date nights, transportation services and making reservations at other types of venues. I can’t wait for us to add these things!
Please feel free to contact me for details or with feedback and don’t forget to rate it on the App Store too .Thanks in advance for checking it out!
Email: Sandy Jones-Kaminski
Bella Domain Media
Direct: 415.613.8508Read More