I am a big fan of LinkedIn, yet I recognize that most people do not understand how to use online networking sites to build and maintain their networks. In part, this is due to a misunderstanding because online networking sites in-and-of themselves are not really networking at all, they are just one of many tools you can use to network. Real networking comes down to relationships, not “links.”
Online Case Study
Eight weeks ago I started the LinkedIn group the “Washington DC Design and Construction Network.” Within the first two weeks word-of-mouth marketing had grown the group to over 50 members and today we should cross the 200 member mark. The group has two things that many groups never get: 1) active discussions and 2) opportunity to meet others in the network in person. That’s right, in early 2009 we are going to be having our first Happy Hour to give people an opportunity to meet in person. The goal is to bridge the gap between online networks and in-person networking.
Real networking requires multiple points of connection. In the same way that simply “linking” to others is not real networking it is also true that going to networking functions is not real networking. Networking is building relationships. This relationship development should be done at the intersection of multiple communication points, including online networking sites, networking functions, follow-up e-mails, letters, association events, phone calls, lunches, coffee, and meetings. This lack of follow-up and connection is the main reason that many people that attend networking events feel that they haven’t had any success.
Each person should evaluate all of their available communication points to identify the ones that they can best use to build their network. I personally have found that LinkedIn can be a great and professional way to maintain those connections. There is no requirement that in order to succeed at networking you must use online networking sites, but there is a requirement that you use multiple communication channels that will help you to foster and build relationships. What are the best channels for communication for you? Look for opportunities for developing mutually beneficial relationships and remember that online networking is only one of many networking tools that you should be using every day.
If you line in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network please use this link and click “join group” to join.