Before the time of LinkedIn, Twitter, or even the neighborhood coffee shop, networking was a tried-and-true way to both gain influence and make valuable connections. However, with the advent and now growing popularity of digital networking, the ability to network like a pro can make or break a person’s professional reputation or even a company’s client list.
Still, there’s one thing that will never change about networking: The strongest connections are based on the desire to foster a meaningful relationship that will benefit both parties. Try to make the relationship all about you, and consider that valuable connection lost.
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Below are six ways to effectively communicate both your value and authenticity when networking online and in person.
People can spot insincerity easily, and they tend to see right through a “me, me, me” mindset. Whether you’re looking for a new customer, a new partner, or even a new job, be sure to prioritize the other person. How can you help him? How might you bring him value? If you’re genuinely interested in learning about a new contact, the questions and conversation will come naturally.
There are usually a few opportunities for you to share your expertise — especially if your expertise can bring value to the other person. In fact, this expertise can sometimes become an entire business model, such as the case with Millennial Branding’s managing partner, Dan Schwabel, who made a profession out of providing value through information. Just be careful to never gloat or brag when sharing your experience — no one likes a one-upper.
A great way to relate to someone new is through a connection you didn’t realize you had. Whether you’re talking in person or online, ask questions and do your research to find potential points of commonality. Maybe you both went to the same university, are a fan of the same sports team, like the same music, or are both a part of growing companies. Whatever the common ground is, find something you two can both genuinely relate to, and the conversation will flow from there.
Whatever you do, don’t be the person eyeing nametags until a particular name or title is deemed “worthy” to talk to. “That guy” is only trying to look important — and everyone in the room knows it. Instead, be the person in the room who has courteous, friendly conversations with everyone.
Make sure everyone feels welcome. People appreciate being included in conversations more than you realize — not everyone is comfortable in a room full of people they don’t know. This also gives you the opportunity to make introductions(just make sure those introductions are beneficial to both parties).
Whether you’re on Twitter or at a conference with a thousand people, being there to help goes a long way. Build your brand as the person who is genuinely nice and wants to help other people in the community. People will be more likely to approach you, ask you questions as an industry resource, and introduce their own network to you. For example, Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, has successfully built multiple companies through his ability to build long-term relationships, add value, and “network the hell out of people.”
Let’s face it, the ability to network both online and in person will be a necessary component of professional success for decades to come. By communicating your desire to help others and simply approaching a contact like you would approach a potential friendship, you’ll be able to build a strong, influential network that will help you for years to come.
Post by Joshua Johnson.
I am a Vice President of Influence & Co. I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, Mizzou, and all St. Louis sports teams. I've contributed to Forbes, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, and Linked2Leadership.