Networking is an important element to both expanding business development and building your personal brand; however, the power of who you know won’t get you anywhere if you don’t develop the right kinds of relationships. For instance, handing out business cards at a cocktail party may seem like a great way to get your name out there, but the truth is that your card is most likely headed straight for the bottom of someone’s bag or, even worse, straight into the trash. If you can’t supplement your name with a face, a story or at least some sort of personal element, the connection is likely worthless. So how do you connect with others in the industry in a meaningful way?

1. Stand out. Is your appearance unusual or somehow memorable? Great. If not, think of other ways to capture your audience’s attention and leave a lasting impression. Did you recently take a trip to China? Do you have a funny anecdote from the day that fits into the conversation? Insert a bit of your personality–what makes you an interesting and unique individual–into your talk to separate yourself from all the business interactions your audience is likely to experience that day.

2. Think outside the box. Networking doesn’t have to take place at an event specifically meant for it. Like volunteering? Try working the registration desk at an event within your industry. Are you a great cook? Get to know contacts within your industry by throwing a dinner party or hosting a casual lunch. The possibilities are endless, and outside of a stuffy “networking event,” people are more likely to open up.

3. Keep it personal. A connection whose name and job are about as deep as your friendship goes won’t do either of you any good. Keep in mind that the best networking produces lasting connections, even friendships, that will benefit both parties. If both you and your connection have kids, why not set up a play date at a local park? Often, including both business-related and non-business-related activities in your relationships with colleagues is far more effective in the quest towards making meaningful contacts. After all, at the heart of every networking interaction should be a human connection that transcends mere business dealings.

 

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In today’s world the use of social media is not only advantageous–it’s expected. As of 2013, 73% of Fortune 500 companies have Twitter accounts, 66% are on Facebook, and 28% keep active blogs. With these numbers rising, it’s not hard to imagine a future where companies across industries increasingly use social media for tasks such as customer service, market research and advertising. Social media is a great means for staying current, reaching a large audience and keeping in touch with what customers are saying–but like any tool, there is a right and wrong way to use it.

Many major brands have suffered their share of social media disasters, meltdowns made all the harder to curb due to their widespread, public nature. So what are some simple, easy-to-grasp guidelines that might help anyone set up and manage social media accounts?

Communicate regularly. By posting, tweeting or blogging on a fairly fixed schedule, you can create a dependable, communicative presence that followers will learn to expect and appreciate. Conversely, adding to your account sporadically or infrequently will reflect a lack of effort. This goes for page comments by followers as well–be sure to respond in a timely fashion.

Show personality, but stay professional. Social media is a unique form of communication for many companies in that it is by nature casual, personal and highly interactive. It may be tempting to use slang, be colloquial and post pictures of, say, cute kittens. By all means, embrace the conversational nature of social media–to a point. While people will connect with you more if you keep posts concise and not too intellectual, you also should remember to keep brand image (and some sense of professionalism) true to your company.

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to click on. While this may seem obvious, many companies make the mistake of simply being too boring. While it’s great to post things relevant to your field, make sure the links aren’t technical to the point that they will only attract a small segment of the population. Supplementing posts with pictures, infographics or videos is a great idea since studies have shown that people are more likely to engage with visuals.

Listen to your audience. There are many fancy tools for measuring social media metrics, but the simplest ones might be the most informative. Try posting only visuals for a week and see how many view and/or clicks you receive. Take into account how many “likes” each post receives. In other words, certain posts will engage your audience more than others, and you can use this information to create the perfect formula for maximum engagement.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. With all this being said, don’t forget to think outside the box when it comes to social media. The great thing about this medium is that it’s new enough that some of the greatest ideas on how to use it for marketing probably have yet to be invented. Try asking questions, posting a poll or getting creative with pictures or video. Just remember to avoid anything that could even possibly be offense and to remain courteous to all of your followers–unless you want a social media meltdown on your hands.

Have some interesting social media tactics? Let us know in the comments!

 

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