Online Networking and Real Relationships

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Back in November, 2008 the Design and Construction Network (DCN) started with a single goal of turning online networking into real relationships. Since that time I have shared with you this ongoing case study through Cofebuz in hopes that we all might learn how to better leverage online networking sites to achieve the goal of fostering real business relationships.

Needless to say, the past seven weeks have beyond exceeded my expectations for the DCN. Here are just some of the highlights:

  1. The network has grown from 480 members to over 1100 members nationally
  2. For our second Happy Hour we had to close down a restaurant in Arlington Virginia to the general public as 323 members converged to attend, representing over 200+ design and construction firms.
  3. Members of the network have found new ways to connect in person, including the creation of a Design and Construction Network team that will be competing at the 2009 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Real Estate Games! (www.realestategames.org)
  4. In the last several days members have proactively initiated the establishment of a Twitter group for anyone in the industry that is looking to connect via Twitter. (http://twittgroups.com/group/designconstructi)

The question people always ask is “where do you go from here?” The answer is simple and exciting: we are going to continue to focus on helping others develop relationships in the industry. To achieve this goal we are working to roll out some incredible changes. I am personally most excited about a new partnership that is unfolding which will help everyone in the network, not just those that are local to one of our Happy Hour locations.

In the next several weeks I will be making this new partnership public, but until then let me encourage you to think about the time you spend networking online. Are you truly building relationships, or just collecting links?

Tim Klabunde

If you would like to join the Design and Construction Network just use this link and click “Join Now.” http://www.linkedin.com/groupInvitation?gid=926787

The Five Habits of Highly-Effective Online Networkers

rainmakerThe following article by Tim Klabunde was published in the April edition of A/E Rainmaker, a PSMJ Resources publication.

Let’s be real, online networking is not real networking. I am not saying that it can’t be a useful tool; I am simply stating that real networking is about a lot more than just ‘linking’ to other people. Let’s forget the discussion on which online site is better for the moment, and focus on how we can leverage these online sites as an effective tool for expanding our networks. If we can’t do this, then online networking is no better than collecting a stack of business cards.

You would probably agree that networking is much more than contacts; it is what you do with those contacts that differentiate rain makers from everyone else. In his book Rain Making, Ford Harding identifies networking as ‘helping people.’ It is about providing others with assistance knowing that others in your network will do the same for you. If you were to check out many professionals’ contact lists you would find that they are full of hundreds of contacts, but very few networking relationships. This is because, as Harding indicates, most people fail to understand that networking is about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Online networks are no different. Success is not intrinsic in simply making contact, success is found by what you make of every contact. Here are the five concepts that successful online networkers live by.

1. Networking is more than contacts. What this means is that online networking is not a successful tool unless you can use it to achieve the overarching objective of helping other people. The good news is that online networking can be a great asset to you in doing just this. Most sites are set up so that you can leverage your online network to provide others with referrals, connect others in your network, and keep your network contact information up to date.

2. Online referrals. Probably the most underutilized aspect of online networking is the ability to refer work and clients to others in your network. The area where we have seen the most success so far is the use of online networks to pass along job openings. If you are already linked in to an online network, I would recommend trying out this feature to see how you can leverage it. Also, most sites give you the ability to block your contacts from others in your network. Carefully weigh this in light of helping other people. I have found it beneficial to allow others to see my contacts so that we can more effectively work together.

3. Link others in your network. How many times since you started using an online networking site have you used your network to connect your friends? Online networking creates an environment where passing along a relationship is easy and mutually appreciated. If you are already part of an online networking site, try connecting your friends to help them be more successful.

4. Keeping your contacts up to date. Online networking sites provide a great way to keep your contacts up to date. Since online networks are linked to individuals and not to their respective companies, you can effectively ‘never lose touch’ through job changes, promotions, and layoffs. 

5. Getting the most out of online networking. Whether or not you use online networking tools such as LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com you need to consider your networking plan. Develop your objective and then determine the tools that work best for achieving your personal goals. For me, I find that using Microsoft Outlook linked to my Palm Treo is ideal; for others, there is nothing better than a full CRM. Whatever your method, remember to establish a follow-up plan that will ensure you are helping other people on a regular basis.

Establishing your plan for networking is essential to determining how you will use the online networking sites. Next time you get or send the e-mail “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” determine if you are simply doing it as an effort to stack business cards, or as a tool to strengthen your network.

The Network goes National

This past week I received multiple calls and e-mails from people across the United States that wanted to take the Washington DC Design and Construction Network concept to their region. Through these conversations it has become clear that the concept is larger than just the Washington DC market, and that it possibly provides the opportunity for a fresh wave of networking in our industry. On the heels of these discussions I am excited to announce that we are changing the Network to enable others in the industry to leverage a nation wide network. As of today the network has a new name; the Design and Construction Network!

The goal in building the network as a national network is to provide others with the opportunity to bridge the gap between online networking and building business. It is our hope that those I have spoken with, as well as others, will leverage the national network to bring people together not just in an online environment, but also at the local level. With that said, here are the three things you need to know about the Design and Construction Network:

  1. Happy Hours for Everyone – The primary purpose of the network is, and always has been, to bridge the gap between online networking and true relationship development. To that end, the goal for the national launch is still to facilitate in-person meetings. To accomplish this, we are looking to team with individuals in local markets that are looking to make in-person networking events a reality. If you are interested in facilitating an event in your neck of the woods, start by joining the network. Then send me a note to let me know of your interest so we can work together to make it happen.
  2. Washington DC -The Washington DC network will remain the flagship of the Network as we work to try new concepts that can be leveraged in other regions as well. The main change will be that the bi-weekly e-mail will be turned into a national newsletter. The Local website will remain at dcdcn.com and we will maintain plans to expand it to bolster benefits of being a part of the Network at the local level here in Washington DC.
  3. You – Now it is your turn to be apart of the Network… after reading posts about the Network for weeks it is your turn to jump in! All I ask is that you are serious about building relationships and not just collecting “Links.” If you are in the Design and Construction Industry please click here to become a member. I also want to recognize that over half of Cofebuz’s readers are not in the Design and Construction industry. To that end, I look forward to sharing with you the lessons learned here on Cofebuz in addition to my weekly posts on Marketing and Building Business though Social Networking.

As always, thank you for being apart of Cofebuz!

Tim Klabunde

Taking over with Web 2.0

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I am beyond excited that tomorrow we will be announcing the launch of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website! As many of you know we have been working to bridge the gap between online and in person networking since the establishment of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network in November 2008. The rollout of this website sets the stage for the second step in bridging this gap. Keep reading if you want to find out what makes this website so different and why it is so important to the Network.

Taking Over

Tomorrow I will also be announcing that we have arranged to take over an entire restaurant in Arlington Virginia for our second Happy Hour! That is right; the restaurant will be closed to the general public and open to the members of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network. As you may recall from my post Online Networking meets Real Networking, we beyond exceeded the room capacity for our first Happy Hour. It is great to see how this event has so rapidly grown to the next level, clearly showing the power of combining social (online) networking and in person networking!

The link between a Happy Hour and a website: Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is about creating value and information while web 1.0 was (and is) all about setting up a site that reads like a brochure. What makes the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website so different isn’t the HTML, it is in the information we are providing through the site! Take a look and you will find links to all of the local procurement websites, feeds from the Washington Business Journal updated every 5 minutes, places to network with other members of the group, and an official Network MBE Directory.

Why

To Build Relationships! Success in life comes from relationships, both personally and professionally. As all of you in the Cofebuz network already know, the best way to build relationships by selflessly helping others. So why not expand on this idea? What would happen if each of us didn’t just help a handful of people but instead tried to help thousands?!  Whatever the outcome, it will be a fun case-study. I look forward to sharing the results of our little experiment with you here at Cofebuz!


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