Classic networking skills still valid in the age of social media – top tips

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a great event, hosted by the London Press Club and Women in Journalism, with Carole Stone, the Queen of Networking herself, as a guest speaker. Having heard so much about Carole Stone, her weekly networking salons and her legendary Christmas parties (what I wouldn’t do for an invite…), I jumped at the chance to attend this event!

Carole was an extremely entertaining, dynamic and engaging speaker, and, as you would expect from a woman who has over 40,000 contacts in her database, she had some invaluable tips for anyone making their first forays into the world of networking. I have listed below the key outtakes from the event, and as an added extra, for each of Carole’s tips I have written my own social media version (with some help from my colleague James), highlighted in italics….

  1. Wear something with pockets – It is important to always have business cards at hand so you don’t have to awkwardly rifle through your bag to find them! (Maybe more of an issue for females!) From a social media viewpoint, ensure that you have a LinkedIn profile, and it’s fully up to date, before you attend an event. You never know who will look you up!
  2. Always follow-up with an email the day after you’ve met someone. And/or send them an email through LinkedIn, adding them to your online network at the same time.
  3. When handing out business cards don’t scatter them like lawyers and accountants (Carole’s words…), make sure you actually spend time chatting to the people you’re giving them to. The same applies online really, just because LinkedIn is there doesn’t mean you should ask everybody you have ever heard of to join your network. As a general rule, only add people you have had a proper conversation with or who you would feel comfortable emailing.
  4. It’s not all about quantity, it’s about quality. Pick out a few people in the room who you really want to meet. Don’t fret if you haven’t met the ‘big players’ at an event, chances are they’ll have so many people thrusting business cards in their direction that they won’t remember you anyway. Old school networking tips live on, this is definitely still relevant online. Engage the up-and-coming bloggers or influencers who will want to, and have time to, share knowledge with you.
  5. Always remember details. Note down one or two key details about the person you’ve just met to remind yourself who they are/where you met. Taking this a step further, you could use tools like Evernote, Digg etc to log relevant posts, articles or web pages that will help you re-engage your new contact in a later conversation online.
  6. If someone is acting rude, or haughty, be honest and ask them “did you mean to sound rude when you said that?” (Maybe a tip to be used with personal discretion…). This is particularly relevant in the world of social media as sometimes irony or humour does not come across quite as well in an email or a 140 character Tweet! If you have engaged with this contact through Twitter, send them a simple @reply asking whether their last comment was supposed to sound rude… This is a win-win technique, the contact will either laugh it off or they’ll (hopefully) realise that their comment was out of line and clarify what they meant/apologise. Easy.
  7. Stand up at networking events so you can get away easier. Conversely, online it’s easy to leave a conversation so get as involved as possible, comment on walls, reply to tweets and use those hashtags!
  8. Carry an empty glass so you have an excuse to leave a boring conversation (“I’m just going to get another drink…). As previously mentioned, online you can leave a conversation whenever you like, but always check back and make sure you are not missing an opportunity to engage with new connections.
  9. OR carry 2 glasses of wine, pretending one is for a friend, allowing you to leave a conversation to look for said friend if necessary… See above… but there is nothing to stop you having two glasses of wine anyway!
  10. . Don’t worry about failure! Absolutely true in social networking online as in the real world, be bold and don’t be afraid to get involved in conversations, it’s the best way to broaden your knowledge and understanding of a subject.
  11. Never toss a card aside! You never know when that contact may come in useful… Hopefully LinkedIn won’t go down.

Et voila… the top tips from the Queen of Networking… and yes, most of them are pure common sense, however it was nice to hear these things from a lady whose reputation and business success are built on networking!

Hopefully these tips will prove useful and show you that, when it comes to taking your first tentative steps into networking, both online and offline, everyone has been in exactly the same situation as you and everyone is nervous about not having someone to talk to or saying the wrong thing. Confidence is key!


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