There are people who claim that networking only became popular with the onset of LinkedIn Groups and the advent of popular social media. Others argue that networking has always been in existence and has evolved for the better, becoming more efficient. The fact is that networking has been around for hundreds, or even thousands of years. There are (and always have been) multiple ways to network- endless events, mixers and social gatherings to attend. But what is networking really and where is the value in this age-old concept?
Last year I made a conscious effort to look at all of the networking I was doing and the groups I belonged to, both online and in person. I did my best to place a value on the time, money and effort I was putting into each group vs. the value I was getting out of each one.
I quickly realized that I didn’t have a cohesive plan for my overall networking. It was obvious I needed to re-evaluate why I was attending the many networking groups and events. I decided I needed a better plan if I was to continue spending my time at many of these groups. Perhaps I would even conclude that my time could be better spent elsewhere.
Think about these questions for a few minutes. . .
- Are you seeing the same people at several of your different networking groups?
- Do you find that you are meeting a lot of people who you will introduce to others (i.e., business referral)?
- Have the people in these groups or events referred business to you?
- Is the group “industry exclusive”, meaning that you are the only representative of your particular industry in attendance?
- Will members of this group view you as a potential resource?
- Have any of the members of this group become a direct source of revenue for your business?
If your answers were as follows: 1-Yes, 2-No, 3-No, 4-No, 5-No, 6-No.Then you are probably in the wrong group and it may be time to reevaluate.
I can hear the potential arguments now, “But Erik networking isn’t an overnight thing. It takes time to develop a relationship.” “Erik, I need to get out there and network or I risk not being seen.” There are many arguments for networking that I agree with completely. But I ask you again, what is the value of networking? I have talked to a number of people recently who feel the need to determine the real value of their networking behavior. Remember it isn’t about whether you like the people at these groups. There are always awesome people everywhere. But business is business. That’s the bottom line.
How am I spending my time after my evaluation? I am still part of a number of networking groups. I am finding more time to spend on sales and strategic partnerships. I continue to stay in touch with members of groups that I am on hiatus from at this time. I am being more specific and intentional in quality referrals to my connections. Finally, I continue to refine my networking plan for what works best for me and my connections.
What do you think? Is it time for you to pull back and evaluate the true value of the networking you are doing?
Erik Hultman (a.k.a. E) is the Founder and President of ÜberBlueDM, Inc., specializing in Social Media Solutions for Brands, Businesses and Celebrities to build their social media success. He is also founder of the North Shore Entrepreneurial Network (NSEN) in the Chicago Area.