Networking has always been a crucial part of business, and despite fast-changing technology, it always will be. The tools are a bit different these days, as are the rules of engagement, but we all need to network effectively and efficiently to get ahead and stay there.
Wondering how today’s business leaders are using modern tech to expand their network and make key connections? We brought up this important subject, and this is what they said.
A huge part of networking is the venues you frequent. This goes for online and in-person methods. Know which platforms are hot and jump in so you don’t miss the boat.
“Stay up to date on the most recent networking avenues,” said Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay. “Digital media is always evolving, so it stands to reason that your digital networking tactics should evolve as well. One great example of this is Clubhouse. While every social media channel is a wonderful networking opportunity, Clubhouse is both the newest and the most overtly networking-based social media app to be released since LinkedIn.”
There’s always a new social network on the rise, so be on the lookout.
Uncommon Job Boards
If you’re looking to cut ties with your current company, it’s wise to have something lined up ahead of time. Browse traditional job boards, but also network online to find opportunities you’d otherwise miss,
“Slack has become an innovative networking tool through professional groups and communities,” said Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, Co-Founder of Oklahoma Smokes. “Slack Communities encourage conversation between like-minded people, which is really what networking is all about, and it provides a medium for the so-called ‘hidden job market’ where young professionals post job opportunities in a forum full of people they know have similar qualifications and interests. It connects people across the country in an efficient way that I’ve never seen the likes of before.”
The job search process is never easy, so leverage your network to speed things up.
We all compare ourselves to others, and networking can inspire some good-natured competition that inspires us to level up.
“One of the most underrated benefits of digital networking is harnessing the power of comparison,” said Tyler Boyd, Chief Strategy Officer at Squeeze. “Usually, I’d say that comparison is the thief of joy—I don’t mean to suggest that you should constantly be measuring your self-worth against the achievements of your competitors or the highlight reels of your friends, but your network is a great demonstration of the true heights possible in your given career path and the internet makes it extremely easy to research their paths and their achievements.”
When you can use your network as fuel for motivation and keep a level head, you’ll be on the fast track to success.
Connected to Brands
Networking is traditionally seen as a peer-to-peer process, but these days, you can connect directly with brands and become a part of a broader community. This will certainly raise your prospects and teach you more about how different companies operate.
“Social media is a great way to gain recognition within your market and meet people within your network,” said Olamide Olowe, CEO of Topicals. “Younger generations, especially our target audience Gen Z, are always on social media platforms like TikTok and VSCO because social media plays a huge role in how people feel about themselves. That’s why it is important to us to create a brand that doesn’t focus on perfection or unattainable beauty standards. We want to transform the way people feel about skin and we do that on social media by showcasing people with visible skin conditions living life in full color.”
You never know what might happen by connecting with brand communities, so why not give it a try?
Never Call it Quits
People are often eager to network when they graduate from college or find themselves in need of a new job, but the truth is that networking should happen year-round, no matter what stage you’re at.
“Digital networking is one of the most important things you can when first starting out, as well as one of the most vital to continue as your company grows,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “While you can join newer options like Clubhouse or an on-topic Slack group, keep in mind that LinkedIn is still a viable tool for connecting with other like-minded individuals. You honestly just never know where you may find your next mutual collaboration, so keep your eyes open!”
Even if you aren’t looking for work at the moment, it’s never a bad idea to make introductions that could benefit you in the future.
Nowadays, networking happens across the board. Employees connect with customers and vice versa. Sometimes even executives chime in and make contact. Customer connection is always the driving force in business success.
“In our industry, you have to build a brand that is representative of our consumer’s needs,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “We always take our satisfied customer’s stories into account when creating our social posts. Our patrons want a very personal experience, as buying a diamond is one of the most intimate purchases a young couple can make together. The most effective way to tie personalized stories into marketing is to utilize social media. Instagram has been a great way for us to maintain contact with our dedicated customers all while showing off the beautiful diamonds they have bought.”
The rules of networking are being totally rewritten, so don’t miss a beat.
Collaborate to Thrive
Are you approaching networking as a transactional exchange of value, or a way to connect and collaborate with others to create something great? That small shift in mindset can yield powerful results.
“Digital networking is important for any niche or business, as it’s your connection to relevant collaborations, as well as to your target audience,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Because Market. “This is why social media will always be important and relevant. There are few platforms that allow you to interact with both consumers and other related companies in such an open, diverse way.”
Always think about what you’re bringing to the table, whether it’s a job candidate, interviewer, or customer.
Look no further than your own industry to make strong connections and unearth new opportunities. You know the people and you know the space, so reach out and make contact.
“It is really beneficial to strengthen and grow new relationships within your field,” said Jing Gao, CEO of Fly by Jing. “Networking is a great way to make those connections. There are always new people to meet to gain knowledge in your industry, and using platforms like LinkedIn is a great way to do so.”
You can always look beyond your industry for connections, but keep your priorities straight.
Look for Potential
However you choose to network, you must always keep the messages and emails flowing to ensure your opportunities never dry up. Make it a daily habit and your effort will pay off.
“Digital networking is an important tool that can be leveraged to reach new business growth,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “Whether you’re staying active on social media, exploring new platforms or joining online communities, surrounding yourself with a steady influx of potential collaborators can do wonders for your brand, as well as your company’s relevance. Networking isn’t just about who you meet, but about recognizing the potential behind building business relationships.”
When your contact lists is ever-growing, you’ll always have options on the table.
Networking might seem like a self-centered project, but it’s quite the opposite. You won’t get far unless you offer value and create a spark of interest in others.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want,” said Author, Salesman, and Speaker Zig Ziglar.
This applies not only to networking but all aspects of business and life as well.
You don’t have to look far to find online groups that you can join and instantly start connecting with people who share your interests and aspirations. Check in frequently and stay active to cultivate those relationships.
“Digital marketing has opened the doors to many collaborations that would’ve never been possible,” said Dr. Amir Yazdan, M.D., Founder of GroMD. “Look for social media or Slack groups that are filled with like-minded individuals, and become an eager, frequent participant. Then, keep track of potential partnerships, and be sure to stay in contact.”
It will take time to plant these seeds and water them, but growth can happen rapidly.
Some networking is done for your own purposes, while other times it’s strictly done on behalf of the business you represent. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s always a bit of both.
“Digital networking is crucial for any entrepreneur in terms of gaining interest on their website and social media platforms,” said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of Pocketbook Agency. “In our case, in particular, digital networking is vital for us as a recruitment firm. We post job ads on LinkedIn and other platforms for job seekers, as well as on our social media channels. We also pay attention to current job ads to see if the company hiring may need our assistance with recruiting. Without these digital tools, the methods of recruiting would be much more limited.”
You’re representing yourself and the business you’ve built, so be professional and put your best foot forward.
Master One Platform
It’s tempting to jump around from one platform to the next and always try to be ahead of the latest trends. This can be helpful to some degree but have one platform you know best as your home base.
“LinkedIn is one of the best sites to use when it comes to digital networking,” said Jason Wong, CEO and Founder of DoeLashes. “You’re able to connect with other business owners and learn from one another. It can also help you form a collaboration with other businesses.”
Most platforms come and go, while others stand the test of time.
It seems obvious to say, but the best thing you can do for your network is to simply show up and put in the work. Combine this with proven social media marketing strategies, and you’ve got a recipe for success that will pay off before long.
“As a co-founder of Leafwell Botanicals, I am well-versed in building a business,” said Abe Rahmanizadeh, COO, Leafwell Botanicals. “Digital marketing is of the utmost importance these days in terms of attracting leads and customers, and the majority of people are on Facebook. Businesses should post regularly to their Facebook pages; not necessarily every day but at least a few days a week. Ask questions in the posts and encourage visitors to answer in the comments. Videos also tend to attract visitors, as there is more room to tell a story and to inspire a personal connection to the business and/or product. Targeting new potential customers through boosted posts and Facebook ads are both productive methods as well.”
You’ll find common ground between marketing and networking, so expect these skillsets to improve concurrently.
Once your contact list passes that 4-digit mark, you’ll start forgetting names, faces, and other details. That’s okay – just stay organized and don’t get in over your head. This goes for digital marketing as well. An organized approach is always the best.
“Social media is crucial for all aspects of digital marketing, and in our case it helps with our e-commerce,” said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President, Rent-a-Wheel. “We have clickable posts on our Facebook page that route directly to our shopping page on our website, and we make sure everyone can see the link to our website in the bio section of our Instagram page. Although we have a well-organized, functional, and professional website, we need to make sure to take the initiative to find as many ways as we can direct people to it, and ultimately, to what we actually do which is provide wheels and tires to rent. As many people are on social media, we know to take advantage of this.”
Track your progress, stay consistent, and be ready to pivot when necessary.
With so much talk about digital networking, it’s easy to forget how things used to be done. If you’ve developed sharp social skills through the years, that’s a powerful advantage.
“Digital networking is valuable in the fast-paced internet age, but remember to sharpen your in-person networking skills as well,” said Eric Wu, COO and Co-Founder of Gainful. “You never know who you might encounter, and you always want to give that strong first impression every time.”
Remember that online networking is only a step to make connections in real life.
Ready to Pitch
Even in a digital-centric age, you might be put on the spot or get your “big break” at any time. Be prepared to step up to the plate and tell them what you’re all about.
“We talk a lot about elevator pitches in the startup scene, so have one ready at all times,” said Jordan Smyth, CEO and Founder of Gleamin. “This goes for your business and your own personal brand. Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up a bit and show your expertise.”
These are high-pressure situations, but they can change the trajectory of your whole career.
Are you pushing too hard to make connections or bending the truth to get a result? That might work now and then, but authenticity and patience are preferred in the long run.
“Nobody wants to be that annoying person who is always looking to make connections without following up or offering any substantial value,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “Be real, be reliable, and be ready to engage in an authentic dialogue if you reach out.”
Nobody will tell you directly if you’re missing the mark, so take the hints and look in the mirror.
Treat People Right
Some of the most basic rules of human interaction can help you out when networking, so don’t forget those fundamentals.
“The golden rule applies perfectly to the networking of all kinds, digital or otherwise,” said Dr. Pooneh Ramezani, CEO and Co-Founder of Dr. Brite. “Be the type of person you’d want to meet and connect with. Treat others with respect no matter how you perceive them initially. These principles will make you wealthy in every way.”
Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated at the end of the day, and just being a good, solid person can get you far in this world.
Lend an Ear
When you reach out to someone new, do you tend to talk their ear off, or lay back and listen to them first? Some back and forth is necessary, but you never want to dominate the conversation.
“Sometimes, people just want to be heard and listened to, so give them the opportunity to speak before jumping in with your own opinions or agenda,” said Kelli Lane, CMO of Genexa. “That’s a hidden secret to successful networking that everyone should take to heart.”
When you listen, you get insights, build bonds, and ultimately network successfully.
Business owners often receive messages from people looking for advice, an opportunity, or just some recognition. Keep your ego in check and respond appropriately to keep the wheels turning.
“Always remember where you came from and the situation you were in when starting out in business as a young person,” said Dr. Robert Applebaum of Applebaum MD. “When you finally reach your goals, be willing and ready to connect with others on their own journey and help them out. Everyone wins.”
It never hurts to do a good deed and inspire the next generation of business leaders.
Let’s face it, most network connections go nowhere, and that’s frustrating. However, that’s never a reason to stop trying. Take a breath and get right back in the game.
“Networking, like everything in business, can feel like a grind, especially when it feels like you’re not making progress,” said Dr. Blake Livingood, Founder of Livingood Daily. “Just stick with it, trust the process, and never give up. Giving up is the only wrong strategy.”
Remember that it only takes one pivotal moment for everything to change in the blink of an eye.
Any Time and Place
You might think that networking is only for the upper-crust executives or salespeople who need a full contact list of leads at all times. In reality, it’s something we should all be doing every day.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in sales, marketing, engineering, or any other line of work,” said Tyler Forte, Founder and CEO of Felix Homes. “Networking is simply a part of the game, and it needs to be a top focus at any stage in your career.”
If you’ve got strong technical or creative skills, networking will simply accelerate your career faster than your competition.
Put Others First
It might sound counterintuitive, but to put yourself in the best position to succeed, you need to be a good team player and help the people around you.
“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own,” said Influencer, Speaker, and Author Bob Burg.”
Have a backbone and speak up if something isn’t right, but you should always be looking out for others in the networking game. It all comes back to you.
Find the Flow
Just like writing, coding, making sales calls or designing a product, there is a flow to networking that takes time to master. Nobody is an expert from square one, so give it time and keep developing those skills.
“It’s not the most exciting aspect of business, but digital networking is absolutely necessary these days,” said Mike Pasley, Founder of Famous IRL. “Treat it as a skill like any other and you’ll improve dramatically in a short span of time. It’s worth the effort.”
Before long, networking will be second nature and not even feel like work.
An awkward email or a bad first impression can stick in your mind for ages, but it’s important to move on quickly and remember the lessons you took away.
“We all have those networking stories that make us cringe or reel with embarrassment,” said Ben Teicher, President of Healthy Directions. “You’ve got to learn from those mistakes and recognize that they happen to everyone. Bounce back and make improvements along the way. It’s the only way forward.”
When all is said and done, you’ll have some funny stories to share when people ask about your journey to success.
Know When to Fold
We’ve all put hours into a potential lead or job opportunity only to end up empty-handed and disappointed. This happens to the best of us, but you need to find the lesson in these scenarios.
“Learn to detect patterns and signals that tell you if someone is worth your time or not, and you’ll save yourself a lot of effort,” said Jonathan Snow, COO and Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “Watch out for dead ends, because you can’t get that time back. Be efficient with your networking and things will happen much faster.”
Knowing when to cut your losses is a skill in itself, so keep this in mind when networking.
It’s always the unsuspecting characters who come out of the woodwork and change your entire outlook on life. Never underestimate someone just by how they appear on social media or job sites.
“Don’t just look at someone’s profile or credentials and assume you know everything about them,” said Guna Kakulapati, Co-Founder and CEO of CureSkin. “You need to do a bit more digging and get the full story by actually reaching out. That’s when you can make strong connections that lead to good things.”
The same rule applies in reverse, of course, and super-qualified people aren’t always what you’re looking for.
It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of college or sitting on the board of multiple million-dollar businesses. You’ve got to keep the effort up with networking and never slow down.
“The second you stop networking, that’s when you start to stagnate,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “This is a lifelong process that requires you to put in some work every day. Learn to enjoy it because it’s an essential part of business and life.”
If you adopt this mindset, connections will eventually happen effortlessly for you.
Start With a Question
A simple question can spark a connection when you least expect it. Do some research about the person and their industry when reaching out, and ask a real question that sparks their curiosity.
“Asking for advice or input from someone is never a bad way to break the ice,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “Everyone wants to feel like their opinions are valuable, and you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to connect with you when you simply ask for their thoughts.”
Not all questions will be home runs, but at least they can get things moving.
The Big Payoff
If your contact list is looking a bit stale, it’s not a reflection of anyone else but you. This is the self-accountability you need to have for everything in life, especially success in business.
“Keep expanding your network and always look for the next opportunity, even after you’ve achieved your initial goals,” said Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science.
Digital networking can seem like a chore at first, but if you apply these ideas and stick to the program, you’ll find it’s one of the most enjoyable and worthwhile aspects of the business.