Old Fashioned Networking Remains a Business Standard

Everyone talks about the importance of networking. Every motivational speaker, small business expert, business coach, and self-help/business author:

They all at some point include the boilerplate networking banter. It’s become so common that I’m not sure anyone really understands what it means to network anymore. By the way, a bit of trivia for you, the word networking wasn’t recognized as a noun until 1967. (Miriam Webster)

Online social platforms make the definition of the word networking more nebulous. Absolutely, I use sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I love social media. And, I have found these platforms to be useful for making significant business connections. But don’t be fooled into thinking these cyberspace networking opportunities replace the old fashioned, face-to-face networking.

Networking isn’t a race to see how friends or followers you can add. Real networking is about real people and real relationships.

So let’s get back to the basics and best practices of networking. Here are my three tips for effective networking – the old fashioned way.

Be committed

You aren’t networking if you’re out for instant gratification.  An effective network is built upon a solid foundation of relationships that are built over time.  A number of years ago I taught a women’s entrepreneurial training course at a community college.  As part of the course work we covered networking.  One of the students returned to class a few weeks later and told everyone that networking events were a waste of time for her.  When I asked why she felt that way, she explained that she’d paid to go to several events in her community and she passed out tons of business cards, but she hadn’t gotten any business.

When you make a new business acquaintance, take time to learn as much about him or her as you possibly can.  Don’t look at them with dollar signs in your eyes.  Take time to get them talking about themselves by asking open ended questions and listening!  Are there common interests you share?  Do your children go to the same school?  Remember, people do business with people they like and trust —  with friends.


Second on my list of best practices is to follow-up after the meeting and be the first to provide assistance.  Stacking business cards on your desk or scanning them into your Outlook doesn’t create a network.  Sending your new acquaintance a brochure or sales letter doesn’t develop a relationship either.  And calling to set an appointment or make a sale is really not going to do the trick.  However, taking time to develop a relationship is what’s going to help you build a solid network.  For example, let’s say I meet you at an event and during our conversation you mention you’re a dog lover.  Guess what, so am I.  We have a nice conversation and you tell me you’d like to know more about creating a dog-friendly office environment.  So what do I do?  I go back to my office and send a “nice to meet you” email, but in addition I include a link to an article with advice for pet-friendly workplaces.

Give, Give, Give

You know the adage, it’s better to give than receive, that applies here.  Be willing to put the other person first.  Find out how you can help them and follow through.  Perhaps, you can make an introduction or suggest a good resource for their business.  Become the “go-to” person.  Then, when you need assistance, you’ll be rewarded abundantly.

There is no better asset – personally or professionally – than a strong network.  A good friend describes it as putting it out to the universe – your universe – whether you need an excellent lawyer or a fabulous hair stylist, your network is the place you go.

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

Susan Solovic CEO Susan Solovic Media Group About Susan