We marketers are an interesting bunch. We like meeting people, but at the same time, networking can feel like a chore. That's a shame, because networking as we all know, is part of the job and central to career development. Fortunately, with the right approach, networking can be fulfilling, productive, and maybe even fun.With that in mind, we'd like to pass along some tips across the two places where you'll be doing the most of networking: LinkedIn and in-person tradeshows and events. Let's start with the former.
As with any social media platform, you'll first need to establish your networking goals before you dive into LinkedIn. This is important, because as we all know, the networking opportunities on the platform can seem endless (and endlessly time-consuming). This article lists the three types of LinkedIn networkers. Which one are you?
Open Networkers — These users also go by the acronym LION, which stands for "Linked In Open Networks." When you see the term LION on a user's profile, it's safe to say they won't refuse your invitation. Their logic is the more connections, the better. (We're talking tens of thousands of connections here.)
Professional Networker — This is a more moderate approach, and something you're probably already doing — connecting with clients, partners, distributors, community partners, bloggers, industry experts, etc. These networkers generally have between 200 to 1,000 connections. Another great way to build up your connections is by joining LinkedIn marketing groups. Hubspot lists 20 of them here.
Exclusive Networker – These users only connect with people they know well and trust.
Now we come to the more important question: how to effectively network on LinkedIn? The first step is to make your profile appealing so that people will want to network. To that end:
- Include a nice, professional photo.
- Fill out your profile completely and include relevant experience.
- Come across as down-to-earth, avoiding annoying "marketing-speak."
Once you reach out to other users, provide context as to why you're reaching out in the first place and don't make requests or ask for favors without first building a rapport. With these things in place, your invitation to connect will come across as friendly and approachable.
Now what about in-person networking events?
The first step is to first ask yourself what you hope to get out of the event. Do your homework by getting a hold of the attendee list. Look them up on LinkedIn to find some common interests, then seek them out in person.
Of course, sometimes it's difficult to start a conversation out of thin air. But remember, everyone there is thinking the same thing: This is a little awkward. Don't be afraid to break the ice and bring attention to the obvious, especially if you come across other attendees who are flying solo.
If the conversation starts to drag, ask probing questions about the individual's industry. What are their challenges? Where is the industry heading? Then compare their responses with your own experiences.
Last but not least, make sure to nail the follow-up. Get their contact information, follow up within a few days, and if necessary, remind them the nature of your chat.
What do you think? What other in-person networking tips would you like to share? Is LinkedIn becoming more or less important as a networking tool?