Think you need a business card and an ability to work the room ruthlessly? Well, times are changing and with it so too is the way that we network and make contacts. Acquiring a stack of business cards is no longer considered the barometer to networking success. Meeting just one person and having a meaningful conversation that will help and inspire you, is a much more powerful contact to have. So put the old rules to one side and digest the following four new ones.
1. First things first, don't talk about networking
The moment you stop thinking about this as something you have to do, is the moment where you'll no longer see this as a chore, but rather as something you can enjoy. Meeting people who you actually want to speak to and listen to is one of life's greatest pleasures. So drop the networking label and just get talking. You never know where you're next good conversation could take you.
2. Follow new friends and acquaintances on Twitter
Twitter is a super and informal way to stay in touch with people. I recently met a few entrepreneurs at an event. That evening a couple of them followed me and I followed them back. One of them even said to me, 'oh hey – I've seen you on Twitter.' Provided your Twitter account is respectable and professional (if it's just a personal rant you might want to think about making your account private or deleting it entirely), then Twitter can be a good tool for you.
While Linkedin is the formal professional networking site, I like Twitter because it's personal, but not too friendly. If you're following a contact and they follow you, you can also directly message (DM) them. One thing to note however, is when it comes to tweeting, to go easy on the Hashtags. And while we're on that topic, if you're in need of a spot of Twitter advice, check out our latest blog on Twitter etiquette by the super digital agency Passion Digital with whom we have been lucky to work.
3. Refrain from swapping telephone numbers
Possessing someone's telephone number is no longer key to being able to contact them at a later date. With your iPhone in your pocket, you'll also be able to give that person your full attention - a rare thing these days. Not swapping numbers also means that your conversation does not get broken up with you trying to 'add them as a contact.'
Thanks to Twitter (see above) and LinkedIn, you'll always find ways to 'stay in touch' with them afterwards. And you can also always try to guess their email address afterwards. If you know where they work, it's usually pretty easy to work that part out.
4. Don't be afraid of connecting and introducing people
Contacts can be key, but being selfish and not introducing someone to someone you might know because of competitive jealousy, will not serve you well and isn't exactly in the spirit of today's 'sharing economy.' If you're generous with your contacts, you'll most likely find that people will reciprocate and thus opening you up to a potential new network. Some might call this karma. Others simply the art of networking.