I’ve written on this subject some before, but I believe it deserves another touch because it represents a major shift in the mindset of consumers. When I first started getting involved with social media, one of the most prevalent questions was, “How much should I share about my personal life?” This question still lingers nearly two years later. Different people will share different perspectives and you hear all kinds of theories of ratio: 50% Business to 50% Personal, 80% Business to 20% Personal, etc, etc. I suggest that we step back from all of the analysis and mathematical formulas for a moment and consider the human element.
Often this question comes down to what we feel comfortable with being squared against what we think that we should be doing/advice that we trust. We have to build our networking strategy based on what we feel comfortable with, all else be damned. I know I started this post with a social media example, but lets look to face to face networking events for inspiration. Anyone who’s spent some level of time in these environments knows that the same questions that exist online exist in real life. Different people take different approaches to networking events. Some folks are like walking encyclopedias of their product/service/brand. They rattle off statistics, details, solutions and examples in an impressive display of knowledge that can build trust. Others rarely talk business, preferring to strike up conversations around subjects that have common interest. These people may skirt around their area of expertise, or tease their fellow conversationalist with interesting little tid-bits of their business life, heightening interest and curiosity. Still others may try to straddle the fence, demonstrating an expertise in their field, while also mixing in details of their personal life to build relationships.
If you stop and think about it, which one of these three types do you gravitate towards? Chances are, this is the type of networking that you’re “comfortable with”. Take a little time to reflect on what you like to see and hear. It’s worth the time to discover your personal networking style. Knowing and owning your networking style is crucial, because you will never have a strong appeal with every single person in the room. The best use of your networking time is finding and connecting with those who you will have a strong appeal with.
But as I mentioned at the outset, we are witnessing a major shift in the mindset of consumers which cannot be ignored no matter what your personal networking style is. Simply put, people want more out of their business relationships. In business to business circles there’s always been a high standard to facilitate the exchange of business, but I would argue that as consumer demands have increased, so have the standards that businesses hold their referral partners to.
The truth is, people are no longer satisfied with being talked at. They want to talk with those who provide the solutions to their problems. Being accessible, approachable, and exchanging information are top priorities of those with the power to help our business. These facts shouldn’t change the way your style of networking however. There’s just some caveats to keep in mind.
If your networking type is “Walking Encyclopedia” make sure that you’re also responding to what others have to say. Find ways to demonstrate the value of your knowledge by assisting others. It won’t take long before your expertise and helpful reputation start reaping financial rewards.
If you prefer to focus on “Social Networking” as a gateway to business relationships, or if you’re the style is “Straddling the Fence” you’ll have to work hard to stand out from the other social butterflies. You can achieve this by delivering more value through either directly assisting your peers, or by building deeper relationships with your contacts. Turning contacts into friends is always good for business.
So what’s your networking style? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section below!
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