How to Network in the Digital Era

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in SEO | 0 comments

To network successfully, you need to know when to surf and when to turf!




Nov./Dec. PLANET News

Department: Feature Story

By Lara Moffat, MLA

How to network in the digital era

You’ve just come back from an event and you have a stack of business cards now piled up on your desk. Adjacent to that pile is a mountain of paperwork that needs your attention. Do you have a system that ensures both can be addressed? I’ve heard it asked time and again, “How do I manage my network and continue to be productive with my business?” “Who has time for email, let alone social media platforms?” Actually, you do.

Articles on social media currently dominate most marketing discussions and place an emphasis on the importance of being technologically savvy. What these dialogues tend to sideline is the importance of relationship building through personal interactions. To network successfully, you need to know when to surf and when to turf.

Networking Basics

As we all know, the key to successful networking lies solely in making connections. And how often you connect depends on the contact, your relationship, and the mode of communication. Understanding the way an individual likes to communicate is as vitally important as the purpose of the message.

But first, you need to get to know the person. Right now, before you even finish reading this article, think of three items of interest that might be talking points when you are introduced to someone new. Introductions can be awkward, so being prepared to communicate and relate should be top of mind. Singularly, the goal of initial conversations is to find something of mutual interest, whether it is a common friend or a shared activity.

When introduced, take a sincere interest in the person and ask engaging questions that spur a conversation. However, especially at events, know when to move on so as not to monopolize the person’s time to meet others. And, before saying your goodbyes, exchange business cards, and then do follow-up. Connecting via LinkedIn is one of the best and easiest ways to reach out to a new contact. Be sure to mention the meeting and refer to something specific that came up in the conversation. If you have an article that would be of interest, connect first on LinkedIn and then send an email later in the week.

Network Management

As previously mentioned, the way a person likes to communicate is as important as the message. Consider how you like to communicate. Do you pick up the phone or dash off an email? If a contact repeatedly answers your calls with an email or a text, then it is a safe bet that he or she prefers this mode of communication. It may be a preference based on that person’s workload or a matter of the person’s age, not necessarily an avoidance to chat. Either way, keep the message brief, professional, and clear.

Try to respond to an individual’s connection as soon as possible! It may be hard to conceive; nevertheless, texting is now part of mainstream business communications. It is used to send quick responses or messages when a phone call can’t be made and is time sensitive. Again, keep texts brief and on point as with emails and social media platform messages such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Lengthy emails, phone calls, and most letters should be replied to within 24 hours depending on the response needed. If you need to address a matter with delicacy, pick up the phone or, if possible, set up a face-to-face meeting.

Client Management

In the green industry, we visually remain in the forefront of our clients’ eyes through the care of their landscapes. Depending on the sector you service, the attention you provide can be seen multiple times a day. Responding to your customers’ landscape needs depends on the urgency of the matter and the temperament of the client; however, someone within your company should respond the same business day. Again, respond to clients in the manner they prefer.

Remember, consumers don’t buy a product based on what the product does per say; they buy because of the benefits they receive. People characteristically make purchasing decisions because of connections, whether or not they recognize it. Depending on the purchase, it can be as wide ranging as a referral to collegiate affiliation or a civic interest. But, almost always, they won’t buy from someone they don’t feel comfortable with or who doesn’t keep their interests in mind as a top priority. The same is true of those who give referrals.

Electronic Etiquette

Electronic communication can sometimes go awry because of the absence of social cues. Misinterpretation is often cited as the No. 1 reason a relationship sours, and the result can quickly spiral out of control. Studies have shown that when we receive an email, we are more influenced by the unrelated events that happened to us prior to reading the transmission; whereas, in a face-to-face meeting or even a phone call, we disassociate ourselves more from the emotions of the day. If you find yourself either as the “misinterpreter” or “misinterpreted,” make the first move and address it immediately. Once context is established, the misinterpretation typically gets forgotten and does not impact the relationship.

Knowing when to surf (to communicate digitally) or turf (call or speak in person) will help you appropriately communicate in the digital age!