Networking is a way to increase exposure for your company and yourself. The more traditional, and still very effective, ways of networking are by word-of-mouth, trade shows and phone calls. A few years back we saw the emergence of industry-related forums as a unique place to gain knowledge in an almost immediate fashion. These forums presented themselves as great tools in helping others to learn about you and your company.
Now, again through the Internet, there are some even more state-of-the-art tools at your disposal to increase you company’s presence including sites such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and ISSUS. These sites are set up to help manage your company and its exposure. I know there has been some bad press concerning networking sites giving these sites a less than stellar reputation of association. While a handful of networking sites play host to a younger generation hanging out and posting images of themselves partying, the sites mentioned above have been set up to attract a much more professional crowd and to spread the word on your company. Networking sites are like having your own mini-advertising agency at your fingertips.
I am a member of all the sites you see above. Why did I join? As I looked at our company, I saw this wonderful team of employees with tremendous talent and I wanted the world to take notice. I wanted to gain exposure. Networking sites give my company the exposure we need. Your company may also benefit from this approach. You too may have a great company with a lot to offer. Why not use every opportunity to spread the word? I suggest you become active in more than one networking site. It’s like fishing. In most cases you’ll catch more fish with a large net than you will with just one hook. With that in mind, let’s look at a few key sites that will help to accelerate your modern networking skills.
The more contacts you have the better. It’s kind of like the game “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon.” The game is played this way: Take any actor and hook him up with Kevin Bacon through movies he was in with other people. That’s how your contacts will be. One of your contacts may know someone you didn’t, and so on. Now the window is open for you to begin a dialogue.
LinkedIn is basically a public résumé of you and your company. You can create a public profile that not only highlights your company goals, but can also be used as a personal marketing tool by utilizing available applications like Word Press (make your own blogs), Slide Share, etc. You might even have Power Point presentations you have made that you can post. Let the world see your talent. Get noticed! Beside these marketing tools, the contact connections can be a useful tool. When you make a connection with an industry peer, you grow your network as their connections now become yours. After all, why do you network? Isn’t it to find potential customers, to contact your peers and to align yourself with the movers and shakers relative to your industry? One word of caution with connections: Unless you don’t mind sharing your sales contacts, keep them away from public eyes. As one person said, the LinkedIn connections section is like having your Rolodex exposed to the world. Some discretion is advisable.
This site has some interesting applications. One thing I like about PLAXO is the public profile page. If you have other sites you use such as YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket or Facebook, you can link these sites to the front page of your profile. This makes it easier for those viewing your information to see what you are all about.
This is one of the most popular networking sites available. The drawback is that most people use it as a social site, but you can use this to your advantage. On Facebook, users are sent updates on your activities, such as “ABC towing has become a friend with the local animal shelter.” If your profile page is set up in a way that shows a clear message as to what your company does, those checking their updates will see this, and you could end up with a fresh lead. Facebook, I think, is best suited for companies trying to find local work. My suggestion would be to join as many local members as possible, such as animal shelters, news stations, Boy Scouts, sports teams, etc. You’ll become part of the local fabric and your name will be out there.
Don’t forget to use other sites such as YouTube, Flickr and ISSUU. These sites host your videos and picture portfolios. Have you considered making a video? It’s not hard to do. It could be as simple as a music montage of your job photos. Again, it’s using that fishing net. You need to throw it out and see what you gather in.O
ne major thing to consider when setting up a networking site is they take effort. You can’t just sign up and put a few things on it and walk away. Your viewers will notice this. Rather, what you want to do is have a clear plan on what you want to accomplish with this site and then follow through. A few other suggestions would be to upload a picture of yourself or a company logo. The personal touch always helps. Be creative. Like it or not we are entering the Web world at a rapid pace. You can’t fight it, so why not embrace technology and put it to work for you? Your network and how you manage it can become the barometer of your success.
About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at email@example.com.