Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Networking - Social, Virtual & Real

I've been thinking a lot about networking recently - if only because it has become such an important part of my life recently. Before I became self-employed, I worked either in organisations which did not need to do sales and marketing, or in firms with large marketing departments. I have realised that my own networking is probably the most important sales and marketing tool that I have available.

I have, therefore, been looking at the various alternatives. There are many books about "real" networking, and I can do little more that suggest that you find one of the many that you agree with and then get on with it. Being British, I have a natural dislike of professional networking, but have learnt to smile and get on with it.

Technology has brought us many more options. I am a member of LinkedIn and participate in forum discussions on that site. In general it seems as if it will be useful in the end, even if many members seem to use it for naked self-plugs rather than for sharing knowledge and information.

I've been looking at Twitter recently to see if I could find it's business potential. This story from the BBC demonstrates the dangers of getting it wrong. I can see what Habitiat were trying to do, but the story seems to demonstrate a company which is totally out of touch with the medium and the people who are likely to use it. Twitter may become a tool for large businesses - and, indeed, some of the cleverest ones may well be using it now without their use being too obvious - but at the moment it seems to me that it is essentially a personal social networking tool, and one appropriate for funky start-ups.

There are some specialist networking sites such as HubStreet which may be useful within their own specialisms, however I have yet to see any other technology for networking which will work in a business context. I look forward to hearing about others I have missed.

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