TIME, TIME, TIME!
Most of my current networking attempts are online. Workit Mom has been the best for me because the basic use of the service is easy. I have tried several yahoo groups as well as Facebook and MySpace but they take me too long to figure out how to use in the first place that I don't have time then to use them for networking.
Recently, though I am having success networking with other moms in my children's activities although I tread very lightly as they are my target I don't want to be a pushy sales person.
Bingo! You nailed the key problem with your comment: none of us can use too heavily our personal/social networks to get business (either direct business from them or referrals). Using the wrong network, makes it actually very hard to reach your business growth goals.
I found that the best way to approach this is through setting goals first: if your goal is to build a network of people who can help you grow your business, then you have to join the networking groups/the people whose goals are to simply help each other grow their businesses. At the opposite spectrum, if your goal is social networking for making friends or just bouncing off ideas or getting together once in a while for a barbecue, then you should choose other type of networking groups.
Would you like to share with us what your networking goals/objectives are and how do you measure them?
I do the same thing as you do -- concentrate on less networking platforms -- for best results.
One thing I said over and over again (for I believe in it), is that every networker needs to set objectives for networking and measurement criteria (to see how effective this activity is).
Anyhow, this is how I view a few different networking platforms I tried so far:
- LinkedIn is a perfect place to meet all the HR people in the World (just kidding! but it's getting close to that) and network with some of the marketing professionals and business owners from a wide range of industries. Unless you pay for the subscription, reaching people through LinkedIn can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, this is NOT a conversational platform -- it's very dry and therefore it requires a low level of emotional involvement
- Facebook -- much friendlier than LinkedIn, a mixture between friends and business, with tons of applications (some are really annoying) -- you can easily reach people through this network and in my view it requires a medium level of emotional involvement. I recently met with the Facebook Director for Illinois and I found out, to my surprise, that 35+ is the core user age group. Next month I'll join the core Facebook crowd!
- Workitmom.com -- is a very warm, full of personality, excellent navigation, diverse and engaging. The little recent hiccups are quite normal for a website which reaches critical mass and continues to grow.
- Plaxo -- just another LinkedIn, but with more freedom to contact people. Not hihgly engaging, but from time to time I get invites and notes from Plaxo members in my personal inbox.
- Entrecard -- I'll take a look at it -- I have heard of it but I did not try it yet.
- BNI - I tried this networking group for a while but it did not work for me: too cumbersome, time consuming, meetings are help in person every week, no professional guidance is being offered by the group leaders, lots of restrictions, very off-line in an on-line digital world, in a word: an unnecessary headache. Nevertheless, the intent of this group is very good but the way they put it into practice raises serious question marks.
- mybeezoo.com -- stay tuned for the summer launch!
Entrecard users put an Entrecard widget on their site. Just as in real life when you can drop off a business card, if you belong to Entrecard, when you're on a site with the Entrecard widget you can drop your "Entrecard." One earns Entrecard points for dropping ones card, and that has created unhelpful dropping strategies, just to earn points.
When I drop a lot of Entrecards, I get a lot more visits to my site, but they're very high bounce rate - not good quality visits. Despite that, I've found some great blogs and have formed some Entrecard "friends."
You can also advertise on each others widgets, which of course cost Entrecard credits, spurning more card dropping campaigns...you get the drift.
I'll be changing my blogging platform in a few weeks, and I really have to evaluate whether to continue with Entrecard.
I guess setting networking goals would be a good idea. I have been so focused on the details of my business that I am "flying by the seat of my pants" for the networking/marketing side of the business.
I would say my networking goals are mostly to
1) Get the word out about SmartToyChoice.com
2) Get feedback on the business idea so that I can improve it
3) Get help in new business issues from people who have already experienced them
4) Help others avoid the mistakes I've made
and 5) the reason I like Workit Mom - share storeis with other working moms on the challenges of balancing it all from a mother's perspective
Thank you for posting this and asking this question. I have to say time too. I have been told to try as many different forums as possible, but it is hard. Being a stay at home mom, while running a business is hard. I also handmake each and every card that I sell, so at times I feel like all my energy is spent in promoting what I do, but then have actually no time to do it.
I have been online with a website, blog, and on Etsy since the begining of the year, and I wish it would generate more hits. I try very hard in the time that I do have, but I always feel like it is not enough.