The Virtual Networker

What’s on the iPod: Ooh La La by Counting Crows

writing, freelance, client

I’m currently operating in a fog of Alka Seltzer Plus and Mucinex — welcome to cold season. Luckily the workload is relatively light this week. And luckily for you germs aren’t transmitted over the Internet (not human germs, anyway).

So what makes marketing different from networking? Often I see the words used interchangeably. That’s not always incorrect. Marketing is selling a product or service in such a way as to make it desirable to the buyer. Networking is selling oneself in such a way as to make oneself desirable to “buyers.” Buyers can be employers, collaborators, friends, colleagues… you get the idea.

Close in definition. Still, very different depending on the circumstance.

Marketing is more of a push to promote one’s products or services. Networking is more of a construction project. You’re building relationships and maintaining the ones you already have. But there will be times (probably more often than you think) where marketing and networking will show up at the same time.

Take your letter of introduction, or even your query letter. They’re both there. You’re telling someone about yourself and trying to sell them on the notion of hiring you for an article, a project, etc.

It’s a simplified comparison of some complex ideas, so forgive any generalizations. The point is in order to market, sometimes you need a network of connections. It’s at that first meeting that you’ll make your best impression, even the virtual meeting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Here are ways I use to make a good impression out of the gate:

Be real. I get so tired of meeting someone who’s sole intent is to sell something to me. So would you, and so will any prospective customers if you were to take that same approach. Instead, be yourself.

Engage. It’s more how you engage that makes the difference, in my opinion. Get to know that person in front of you even if you think there’s little chance you’ll ever have a buy/sell relationship. Instead, make a friend and be a friend.

Be a great resource. If I can help one person I meet each day resolve a problem, find an expert, or get a question answered, I’ve networked correctly. I’ve been known to connect two different entities both looking for each other, which I think is neat. It also shows them I’m connected and they may mention that to someone.

Interact. Like I mentioned earlier this week, to me social media is for socializing. I’ve been known to say hello to people randomly just to see how they are, to communicate with them, and hey, if something comes of it, great! If not, I’ve had a nice conversation with someone who may think I’m a decent person.

Follow up. So your new Twitter follower has a great business in your specialty area. You’ve said hello. Get in touch again! This time, try sending them a link that relates to their business, or an article you’ve written on the subject. Just be sure to keep the conversation going. When your gut tells you it’s appropriate, take it to email. I do that whenever I have a link I think would be helpful.

What do you do to make a good impression in your networking interactions?

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  • Devon Ellington January 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I'm genuinely interested in people and their stories, so I truly want to hear what they have to say.

    Sometimes, though, I forget to promote my end of things, but I figure, if it was an interesting enough conversation, we'll have more chances.

  • Gabriella F. January 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Sorry to hear you've got this cold crud, Lori. I developed it just before new years, and I'm finally feeling like I'm on the mend. Go Mucinex!

    I think you make excellent points about networking. I'd even boil it down further: Be easy to like and helpful long before you talk about your work.

    People want to work with people who make their lives easy. Best way to do that? Be low maintenance, and continuously share ideas others can benefit from. When people see you that way, they'll always think of you when they have a need you can fill.

  • Ashley January 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    I love that you're bringing this up, Lori. I have been in those situations at networking events or even online when I get the super hard-sell from someone. Thankfully it's easier to disengage online, but it puts me off that person's services forever. Especially when they've outright asked for the sale and I've said no, multiple times. It makes me wonder how they get any business at all. Maybe I should try the hard-sell with them next time and see how we'll it goes over…

  • Cathy Miller January 16, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Hi Lori: Sorry to hear about the cold. Mine was short-lived, except for this occasional cough that won't go completely away.

    I think as networking as long-term. Marketing is more immediate and specific. I find networking works best when I'm not looking for anything in return. You're sharing, getting to know someone. If something comes from it, great. If not, well, at least you met someone new and in this small world of ours, you are bound to run into them again. Better to have left them with a good impression.

  • Paula January 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I try to make a good impression by being genuinely interested in my contacts. Reciprocal communication is important. Neither person should dominate a conversation in person, over the phone, in e-mail or online.

  • Lori January 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Devon, I'm guilty of forgetting to promote, too. 🙂 Not always necessary anyway, I feel, because people will remember you as that nice person who took an interest.

    Gabriella, I think mine was the flu. It wasn't as nasal as a cold, and the aches were close to unbearable. Today, a little better.

    Ashley, it really is easier to disengage online, which is why we need to be so careful not to overdo it, I think. I've stopped following people who shout the loudest, I'll tell you!

    Cathy, exactly. When I head to this year's conference, have a dozen new people to have lunch and dinner with, and hey, if work comes from it, great. If not, I've enjoyed someone's company. 🙂

    Amen, Paula! Brevity in all things, I think.