In any form of business, the act of maintaining a personal and professional contact list is highly recommended and essential for growing your business. The need to learn how to grow on LinkedIn and other professional platforms is necessary in today’s time. Your network can be made up of people whom you knew from school to a person you met at a recent conference. To maintain and create a network you have to seek out opportunities where you could meet new people to exchange ideas with.
One of the most obvious places to grow your network is from your workplace. Your workplace shapes you both as an employee and as a professional. Networking is as easy as going into your break room and striking up a conversation with your coworker. It helps you in career development, potential job searching, helps you become an informed professional, helps you draw on various resources, and so on.
Networking gives you the opportunity to be proactive and look for the right people. Apart from that, it also helps you set goals for your career by understanding the standard measure for trajectory. It can help you in-between companies to secure a new job, it can help your startup by facilitating introductions with advisors, VCs and investors, it can help you with personal branding whether you’re working for yourself or a company… the opportunities are endless.
So, let’s take a look at how to improve networking skills and grow your network.
How To Improve Your Networking Skills
Any form of networking is good but if you can sharpen your skills to get the most out of each interaction, you can maximise the outcome of your networking activities. So learn how to improve networking through the following steps:
1. Always Quality Over Quantity
Remember, it’s now about meeting as many people as possible. Making a meaningful connection is always better than trying to strike a conversation with the entire room. If you have two or three such meaningful interactions, people are most likely to remember speaking to you. So, always choose quality over quantity. Remember it’s not always about the number of people in your contacts but the amount of profitable exchanges you can get out of them.
2. Social Media Accounts
Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit and even Quora are really helpful in building networks. Engaging with people online is really important for your business. Follow people who are in / aligned with your industry and be an active participant instead of a passive voyeur on these platforms. It’s a great way to strike conversations and discussions with people and establish that first point of contact. This will help you transcend to a Direct Message/Email/Inbox relationship where you can actually talk about meaningful exchanges. Always make sure you maintain a professional tone.
3. Do Your Own Research
When attending an important seminar or conference, always do your homework. Read up a little bit about the topics that will be discussed and how they relate to your business. Also look-up some of the attendees that are important for your career or business. This will help you maneuver networking conversations with ease. You can simply Google the topics in discussion and find the key attendees on LinkedIn.
4. Don’t Try To Hard Sell
Do not pitch yourself as soon as you meet an important prospect. It’s a big no-no! On many occasions the person you’re talking to might not be able to help you directly but will try and give you a contact of someone else. Learning how to increase your network can often lead to overeagerness. Being overeager can backfire and put the person on the backfoot. Having organic conversations to slowly uncover where your interests assimilate will give you the maximum chance of success.
5. Know How To Give & Take
Just as important as it is to keep track of your network, it’s equally important to understand what you can offer to them as an individual. Networking needs to be mutually beneficial. Once you’re willing to support your friends or colleagues, they are most likely to return the same favour. Keep in mind that this give and take policy is really helpful in the networking arena when you’re trying to build your own business.
How To Build A Professional Network
To build a meaningful network there are certain points which you need to keep in mind. With the most important and legitimate platform being LinkedIn, you first need to understand how to grow over there.
1. Steps To Building A Network On LinkedIn
With half a billion users in more than 200 countries, LinkedIn is one of the fastest-growing professional networks for B2B prospects, authentic hires and business partners. Follow the steps below to build a relevant LinkedIn profile and learn how to increase networking which can be highly beneficial for you.
A. Start Personalising Your Connection Requests
Don’t simply click on the connect button to cross the 500+ connection mark in order to receive a super user status. It’s simply not useful in having 500+ connections but nothing relevant to your area of expertise or business at all. Once you’ve added all your known contacts to your connection, look at contacts in their lists that are relevant to you. With people you don’t already know, it’s always good to leave them a personalised message introducing yourself. This will improve your chances of meaningful exchange where the person may return the introduction or in the least, accept your invitation.
B. Set Your Monthly Growth Goals
Setting up of monthly growth goals can actually help you meet them. If you divide the number 500 over weeks or months, it’s not insurmountable. Always keep in mind that the key to achieving your goals is to always make it look realistic. Set your bi-weekly goal at 175 connections and you’ll be able to meet your set goals in no time!
C. Write Authentic Articles
Did you know that you can write your own articles on LinkedIn? This is another great strategy to grow your business. Write helpful posts, preferably backed by facts, figures and research, and post often. This increases the chance of users discovering your content on LinkedIn. Do some extensive keyword research and apply it to the articles that you’re posting regularly. Maintain a schedule, use images and don’t plagiarise. The more authentic your articles are and your profile is, the more you’ll be discovered on LinkedIn.
D. Promote Your LinkedIn Profile
Promotion doesn’t always mean paid promotion. You can promote your LinkedIn profile URL on other social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter where you have a lot of connections already. Use the LinkedIn profile bio to draw in potential employers and clients. Another key method in promoting your LinkedIn profile is adding the URL at the end of your email signature.
2. Your Life & Society Is Circular
Akshita Gupta, the Founder and CEO of Anvil Media mentioned,
“Your network is your net worth. I may need your help today and you might need my help tomorrow. Since your life and society is circular, building a network is highly important. A lot of time, school and college friends might become your network. You don’t have to keep talking to people everyday to maintain a good relationship. Sometimes you don’t even realise but the connection remains. There are a lot of online and offline networking groups that can add value to your business. Time and distance were constraints previously but not anymore. There are so many virtual networking events that keep occurring, so sign up for those if you’re interested. Don’t hesitate to ask for anybody’s business card. I realised with time that even people at the top are willing to make a connection but there’s a fine line that you’ve got to maintain when sending them a connection request on LinkedIn or other platforms. We live in a much connected world where the degree of separation is much less.”
3. Maintain Diversity
Don’t be narrow or afraid to bring diversity in your connections. A good network is beneficial only when all the members have benefit from being a part of it. So even if someone isn’t directly part of your industry, they could be part of an ancillary but symbiotic one and you should invite them into the fold. For example, a journalist has much to gain not just from other journalists but corporate communications, PRs, founders and entrepreneurs, researchers, photographers, publishing professionals, marketing gurus, and ad and client servicing contacts too.
6 Key Takeaways
The following are the 6 key points which you can take away from the above article on how to increase networking.
- Remember that mutual benefit is always a good thing. Don’t waste a lot of time on people whom you don’t want to be acquainted with. Find people who actually fit your social and business profile.
- Don’t talk about irrelevant information. Always try and find a common ground to keep your partners engaged in the conversation.
- You can always find new connections through your older ones. People will most likely trust a previous acquaintance rather than a complete stranger.
- Speak with confidence whenever you’re striking a conversation and remember to allow the other person to speak as well. Keep in mind that it is only you alone who can understand your brand needs and how to improve networking.
- When you strike up a business opportunity, remember to maintain originality. Provide something which your other competitors are not doing. This can create a long-lasting impression on the person. If you’re just a part of a huge crowd, nobody will notice you.
- A good network is an active one but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to keep the interaction going on every single day.
Networking sometimes might take time but in the long-run it’s completely worth it. Share with us in the comments some tips and hacks you live by when networking.