In the year 1996, a young student named James Thomas Fallon left his college education to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in comedy. He had a knack for humor, a talent for impressions, and one skill that set him apart from every other struggling performer.
He could connect well with people.
Fast forward a few years, Jimmy Fallon was hosting NBC’s The Tonight Show which is the highest opportunity any comedian could ever get. Fallon was, and still is, talented beyond doubt. But his insane success story was not driven by talent alone.
Comedy, just like any other entertainment field, is a business. And being successful in that business depends on how well you can market yourself and how well you can connect with the people who matter.
In his book Smartcuts, based on his conversations with the Tonight Show host, the author Shane Snow claims that a lot of Fallon’s success as a businessman promoting a product (himself) was the result of his amazing ability to create relationships with some of the most influential people in his industry.
What Jimmy Fallon was and is so good at doing is known, in business terms, as networking. And before we move on to discuss the impact of networking on businesses, we should know what exactly we mean when we talk about business networking.
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What is networking?
In the simplest of terms, networking might be referred to as the lowest-cost marketing method many businesses can employ. Business networking can be defined as a process in which you might leverage your existing business connections to develop sales and business opportunities. That’s not it. You can also use networking events for affiliate marketing, collaboration and joint ventures.
So, in effect, it’s a process of building and fostering new relationships through introductions and referrals. It’s not about what you know about the business. It’s about who you know in the business.
When it comes to networking, the medium you utilize is almost as important as, if not more so than, the nature of the process. Business networking can be conducted through networking events involving face-to-face meetings, formal or informal gatherings and communication mediums like phone and email.
However, the single most influential medium of networking these days is social media. And that should be our focus of attention. Let’s consider a prominent business networking website, LinkedIn, as an example.
Business networking and LinkedIn
Facebook and many other social networking websites were established with a simple purpose – to do what it said on the banner, to bring people together socially. It wasn’t long before people discovered that if you can use social media to connect socially, you can also do it to connect professionally.
And, lo and behold, LinkedIn was born.
As a business person, if there’s one thing you should absolutely excel at, it is knowing how to use LinkedIn to build powerful influence. When you think of LinkedIn, you imagine establishing a strong network by creating new connections.
But there’s a lot more to it. LinkedIn also offers you the ability to create networking events through which you can invite your connections. You can also find and attend the right events which, you think, will bring you closer to business success.
Social media networking strategy
If you want to use social media as a tool to promote your business networking events, why not be prepared to use it right? You need to have a social media strategy with special events.
A strategy, by definition, is a series of steps designed to achieve a singular purpose. In this particular situation, your purpose is to use your social media presence to attract more participants to your networking events.
To create a strategy, you would need to conduct a lot of research on who your potential audience is. Then, you need to find the best ways to reach that audience, grab their attention, and convince them that attending your event would be worth it.
Why networking events are so crucial
There’s one crucial thing that needs to be said here. Living in a post digital revolution age does not, in any way, diminish the importance of face-to-face business networking events. In spite of the digital age (or, perhaps, because of it), more people than ever prefer the face-to-face interactions that networking events offer.
The research data on the importance of face-to-face network is staggering. Forbes Insight, conducted a survey on this very subject. And, an overwhelming 84 percent of the respondents stated that they prefer face-to-face meetings when it comes to establishing business relationships.
When asked why they preferred in-person business meetings, here were some of the responses:
- 85 percent said it builds stronger and more meaningful relationships
- 77 percent liked the ability to read facial expressions and body language during in-person meetings
- 75 percent preferred it due to the prospect of more social interactions and bonding
The data is overwhelmingly in favor of face-to-face business networking events. This suggests that when we think of using social media for business networking, we’re not just thinking about conducting networking through social media. We also need to come up with ways to use social media to boost attendance at a networking event.
A networking event success story
If you look around, you can find tons of examples of the success of networking events. We’ll present one of the stories here, simply because of how inspirational it is.
It’s about Lisa Wang and Yin Lin, co-founders of SheWorx, an organization that has helped 15,000 women reach their business goals. Recognizing the gender barriers that are a huge hindrance to the success of female entrepreneurs in their respective industries, they decided to do something about it.
The result was a series of SheWorx100 summits that were organized to bring female entrepreneurs into contact with investors. The exercise was a stunning success. More than a quarter of attendees at the summits secured meetings with investors afterward.
Today, many female entrepreneurs making six-figure income owe their success to these summits. That’s the incredible power of networking events.
The last word
Networking events are crucial to the success of your business. Whether you want to use networking for self promotion, like Jimmy Fallon, or you want to promote a social cause, like SheWorx, or you simply want to bring in more blog traffic from the offline world, you know what you need to do.
So go through your list of contacts and start preparing a strategy to win them over.
Now that you have seen how to build, maintain and grow your business through networking events, its time for you to apply the tips I’ve shared. If you have any questions, leave your comment in the box below.
Guest Author: Bill Achola is a business writer who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners create the right content for their business. If you want to get featured on large publications sign up now on his site and you’ll get his free report instantly!