How--and Where--People Network
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Sorting Out Who's Who - By Ivan R. Misner
There are countless online networking activities we could participate in but it's not always clear which online networking sites are truly beneficial. Plus, it can be difficult to figure out how much time we should devote to online networking in order for it to be effective.
One of the things that's changed over the last five or six years is that people no longer trust the experts very much; instead we trust our peers. Therefore--in order to try to get some answers to our questions about how much time we should spend networking and where we should network (face-to-face and online)--we thought the best thing route would be to ask our colleagues.
So last autumn we created a questionnaire, asking people like ourselves how much time they spent networking, what specific marketing tools they used and how they balanced online and real world networking. The last questions we asked pertained to how they liked to network, which events worked best, what size group proved was most beneficial for them and how the process of trust development played out. In the end, 650 people completed the questionnaire; mostly entrepreneurs found through BNI, Ecademy or LinkedIn.
The results of the questionnaire provide very useful information to consider when contemplating a networking strategy.
- The average amount of time business owners spend promoting their business is 12-15 hours. Promotion activities include everything from sales to networking to online and conventional marketing.
- While face-to-face networking activity proved to be overwhelmingly important to respondents, it's also clear that LinkedIn has become an important networking tool, especially for small businesses.
- Other popular tools include workshops, PR, online advertising, and e-mail (more than 25 percent of respondents did one or all of these activities regularly or said they depended on them).
- On the internet side of networking, LinkedIn and Ecademy were favored sites. In the physical world, BNI and other structured events seem to be where people are focusing their networking efforts.
The people who most effectively utilize online media are also good face to face networkers; it seems they're using technology to as an alternative to conventional growth business models.
We also investigated the effects of scalability--whether or not the business is limited by demand rather than its ability to supply or whether a local, national or global orientation has any effect on how people network. It turns out whether or not the business considers itself local (defined as getting 80 percent of its business within a 50 mile radius) or national in scope has a pronounced effect on networking strategies.
Entrepreneurs that think of their companies as national are:
- Twice as likely to use LinkedIn; 40 percent vs. 20 percent,
- More likely to use Twitter; 10 percent vs. 2 percent,
- Twice as likely to use online social networks; 30 percent vs. 15 percent,
- More than twice as likely to have a blog; 25 percent vs. 10 percent,
- More likely to value chance encounters; 22 percent vs. 14 percent,
- Three times as likely to prefer big networking groups of 100 to 1000 members; 16 percent vs. 5 percent.
However, if you're trying to promote ideas or scalable services nationally, you'll benefit from the random connections that internet networking offers.
Our survey also revealed commonalities across the various groups. All networkers spoke of the importance of a core, local support group. Further, most people prefer to face-to-face networking groups of 20 to 30 individuals.
In addition, all survey participants believe that trust is generated by listening, practicing Givers Gain®and following up with people quickly. A good reputation is based on the opinions of others, evidence of enthusiasm and commitment and the ability to give referrals before expecting them.
Most important to building a good reputation--you must develop the characteristic of clarity. Be clear about what you do, what you stand for and what benefits you and your business offers people who might use your services. Only after peers like you, trust you and clearly know what you do will they give you referrals; regardless of whether you're dealing in online or face-to-face networking.
Since the overwhelming majority of our survey respondents offer business services, and since most business in that industry comes by referral or recommendation, this is real food for thought.
So, where does your business fit into these findings? Do you feel that spending more time online would benefit you or not?
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Sorting Out Who's Who - By Ivan R. Misner
About the Author: Ivan R. Misner
RSS for Ivan's articles - Visit Ivan's website
Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization. BNI was founded in 1985. The organization has over 5,800 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated 6.5 million referrals resulting in $2.8 billion dollars worth of business for its members.
Called the "Father of Modern Networking" by CNN and the "Networking Guru" by Entrepreneur magazine, Dr. Misner is considered one of the world's leading experts on business networking and has been a keynote speaker for major corporations and associations throughout the world. He has been featured in the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, as well as numerous TV and radio shows including CNN, CNBC, and the BBC in London.
Dr. Misner is on the Board of Trustees for the University of La Verne. He is also the Founder of the BNI-Misner Foundation and was recently named "Humanitarian of the Year" by a Southern California newspaper. He is married and lives with his wife Elisabeth and their three children in Claremont, CA. In his spare time!!! he is also an amateur magician and a black belt in karate.
Click here to visit Ivan's website.
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