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Networking is moving with the times - but can we forget the past?

Fri 13 January 2012

This week the BBC featured a very interesting article on their website that weighed up traditional styles of networking with more modern ones. 

The article was called ‘Networking: Does everybody need to schmooze to get on? ’. 

The simple answer to this question twenty years ago probably would have been a straightforward ‘yes’. If you wanted to network in the nineties – you had to eat canapés, sip your drink and schmooze at networking parties. It’s considered a skill to be able to smile, swallow and schmooze in on your target. Networkers need to be able to create an opportunity to have a conversation with a prospective client or colleagues that sounds and feels genuine. It's also impoprtant to take a more structured approach with early morning breakfast meetings. Not an easy task. 

However is this really the case anymore? 

With the help of social media, those people who find networking face to face uncomfortable and opportunistic – have been given a way out. Social networking platforms have given business networking a new angle, but the question we’re all asking is – is it as powerful? Are you going to remember a request to connect and a short message on LinkedIn as well as you’ll remember a schmoozing face? Do we still need to use those schmoozing techniques to network successfully? 

I think the answer to this question is that we need to be skilful in both online and offline networking, if we want to see results from our networking in the noughties. We certainly can’t rely on social platforms alone, but at the same time –working the room at a party isn’t as crucial as it used to be. 

Professor Hobsbawm argues in the article mentioned above – 

‘Face-to-face contact is much more important in the 'Facebook age' because technology can create isolation despite its many benefits. Trust is the biggest single asset a person can have and face-to-face contact provides this better than any other form of engagement. But everyone needs to be connected on social media too. The more blended your information sources, the better."

The other thing that we must remember is that in order to network successfully we must apply the same rules on and offline. Appearing genuine, sincere and meaningful is important both when you are ‘schmoozing’ in a room and connecting on social media. Connecting or following hundreds of meaningless people on your social profiles can look as shady as working a room badly. Good networking is as important in a room or online, that will never change with technology. 

Whether we start our relationships face to face or on the web, we need to ensure we carry them one step further in their development by flipping them transversely.  If the relationship starts online, make sure you attempt to connect in person or on Skype. If the potential for business starts offline do try to take it online. 




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