It's about having a mix of different types of networking which form your marketing strategy for you business. Membership networks can provide a good stream of business for some but for others informal networking provides an opportunity to get to know people as people rather than businesses. I think it's important to have a goal in your mind for each networking event you go to so that you can feel that the event has been of value to you rather than just a chat and a coffee.
@Siobhan Costello You're absolutely right Siobhan and aren't we lucky to have so much choice? I know some people are terrified of the 'open' networking experience and prefer a structure where they know what to expect whereas others thrive in the opposite sort of environment.
What is clear to me though, and provided the impetus for this post, is that formal membership networks typically don't do much to connect their members via social media and I think this is where the most pressure for change will come in the next few years as people learn how how to connect without the formal structure that the membership organisations provide. Internal membership forums, however large, (e.g.4N and Ecademy) will never compete with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
I am one who has networked for sometime and attended free events and paid into a membership network as well. The reason for attending was 2 fold; A) to meet people and take a break etc and B) establish relationships with people that I may do business with in the future or might recommend me to other people they meet. I am also one that travels many miles to attend Anne's Inspired events. Why travel so far you may ask (Cromer to Cambridge)? Having already discussed the topic for the evening with others online on LinkedIn I get to continue the conversation. I get to remove myself from my regular business environment (take a break). I can go somewhere where I can chat to folk about whatever not just business. Take in a speaker to 'be inspired' and I have a 2 hour car journey back home to process the evening and make decisions on how / if I need to make changes to my businesses based on what I'd taken in during the evening. I get to eat some quality food too! Ultimately it's the socialising and meeting people that I like and it forms part of a 'healthy balanced appetite' for being in business and doing life as a business owner. 2 other examples of this new version of social networking that Anne has blogged about that I go to are Hot Source, the Norwich equivalent of CamCreative with all the usual online trimmings and up here in north Norfolk there is the Acorn Network which occasionally meets for lunch as and when, no fees for either. 1 final comment. Not sure if you've heard of the Yorkshire Mafia. A local buying group of 600 businesses in Yorkshire who may meet up but they have an annual event. One of their rules is that no one is allowed to sell, you're only allowed to buy. if you think about that again it turns all the traditional processes of doing business on their head.
The great thing is that as you're using LinkedIn and Twitter Veronique, you can carry on networking at your own pace in your own time!
Ahhhh! How nice it is to read this Ann! "Networking is a human activity that was hijacked by business organisations. Now it’s back in the hands of the individual and freely available to everyone". You can't guess how fed up I am (an even p****d off) with all these business organisations all around here, so formal, so old-fashion, and to be honest I've even given up!... So with spring coming and the need to get some fresh air and a fresh mindset, let's see how it will work for me. But I feel I need a bit of a rest! Cheers! Véronique Mermaz
I agree with you Ann and I suppose I was trying to highlight that networking on and offline is changing and the usual format of ‘pitch, sell, move on' is not the only option these days.
The Cambourne Network that I host is over 3 years old now and in the last year or so social networking drives potential guests to Cambourne Network where the option is to meet in person. The Meetup site holds all the profiles and manages the event for us and with regular Tweets and mentions on Linkedin and FB the strategy works and guests want to come along. The Cambourne Network is a drop in, no pressure group with no membership and a nominal £10 is the only cost to cover breakfast. Social networking combined with an appealing drop in group is a very attractive proposition for guests as time has become precious for most and cost a close second. It works a treat and so much I won't be joining a membership based group anytime soon.
As you say Christine, time is a crucial factor in all of this. Its much less hassle to make contact on line and a well chosen comment can reach many more people than the truly horrible process of 'working the room'. There are still attention seekers on line of course, but good moderators keep them in check!
Whilst it's good to meet people face to face, not everyone is confident about making "first contact" and going to a network group for the first time can be daunting for many. Using Twitter and LinkedIn to contact fellow attendees at an event allows us shy ones to get to know people in a non-confrontational way, especially in situations when many are vying to be the centre of attention! I have been of the opinion for some time that there will be a great sorting out of all the network groups as there are so many to choose from now. At the end of the day everyone needs to consider ROI, not only money but also time. I wonder how some people have time for work as they seem to go to so many different groups, collecting piles of business cards!