Networking – Do we still need face-to-face?

Nowadays, we have many different ways of getting in touch with each other and meeting new people. The social media takeover means we can keep up with what our peers are doing at the touch of a button but face-to-face networking is a valuable skill, and not many people still have it. Networking and marketing go hand in hand, and it’s all about tailoring it to your business. You need to choose events that work for you. Here are some quick tips about improving your face-to-face networking.

1.       To eat, or not to eat?

Many people don’t think about this, but eating poses more of a problem than you’d guess. Can you hold a flowing conversation whilst eating? Maybe you find it distracting. Different meetings have different catering – some are canapés and others are three course meals! Bear this in mind. Go for valued networking and connect with the most people, not for a meal.

2.       Formal or Informal?

There’s a wide range of formality in networking. Some are so informal there’s little structure at all, it’s up to you to talk to people and start conversation. Formal meetings often have seating plans and timetabled 30 second introductions from the attendees. If you’re a people person, and can start conversations easily, maybe there’s less need for formal networking. Go where you’re comfortable.

3.       Industry Specific?

It’s always worth being strategic with your networking. You’ll get more out of it if you go to a meeting relevant to you. If you work with businesses within a specific market sector, then go out – be proactive! Find out where they network and join them. Chartered institutes or associations are great places to start. If your clients are across a range of sectors, find out what they have in common. Is it business size, or target market? Find out where they network, and see them. There’s no downside to getting to know your client’s industry a bit better.

What does Naymz tell us about you?

Dianne

So people can follow you on Twitter, view your Linkedin profile, stay as your friend on Facebook, find out what you like to read by viewing your Delicious bookmarks, now what will Naymz tell us about you?

Naymz is a recent competitor to LinkedIn. Oh no, not another business network I hear you say, who needs another one, but it just might depend on what you “need”.

Naymz has about a million users.  It is much smaller than LinkedIn (at 55 million). It was launched to the public in June 2006.

There are two levels of joining:

  • Basic (Free to join)
  • Premium (which costs $4.95 per month)

Lets deal with the free Basic level .  You will need to set up your profile giving as much information about yourself as you  wish, create a password which you will need to use to login each time you use Naymz. 

Quoting from the site directly, with Naymz you can:

Online Professional Branding
Build your online professional brand by creating a profile page and publishing it on the web. We will optimise your profile so that its visible in the search engines, like Google and Yahoo. ………. ………………. ………………..

Exchange
Share ideas, questions, opportunities and statuses in real-time with your network and the whole Naymz community. Engage in discussion and help others in your network find solutions to specific problems. 

Connection Builder
Extend your network to meet new, reputable professionals who you can benefit from meeting and vice-versa. No introduction fees required and no limits on communication. You set your own communication settings.

RepScore Ecosystem
Invite your clients, colleagues and friends to vouch for your honesty, integrity and credibility through anonymous assessments. You’ve worked hard over the years to establish a good name and reputation, so we combine all feedback and publish a RepScore to your profile for the world to see.

Content Aggregation
Are you publishing your knowledge and expertise across the web in blogs and social networking sites? Link your blog to your Naymz account and syndicate your expertise to the Naymz community. You can also collect links to all of your online personae in one easy-to-find place. It’s like the table of contents to your online identity. 

Reputation Monitor
Keep an eye on what is being said about you online across various sources such as blogs, news sites, social networks and other online content with our real-time monitoring tool.

Job Board
Search for jobs by keyword and location, or let us suggest jobs based on your profile information. Looking to hire? We will let you post your jobs for $40 for 30 days and syndicate across our partner networks.

People Finder
Looking for old colleagues or classmates? Search more than 1 million professionals across 100s of countries. Also, if you’re a recruiter you can do quick searches for prospective hires for free!

Profile Analytics and Alerts
We guarantee that once you set up your profile, it will be found by recruiters, protential clients, colleagues and friends. When that happens we’ll provide you with some insight into when and how your profile was found.

Activity Feeds
Want to keep tabs on your professional contacts? With activity feeds we’ll provide you with updates when a contact updates their profile, posts an Exchange, updates their blog, etc. It’s a great way to stay in tune with the activities of those in your professional network.

Custom Profile Themes
Select one of several custom profile themes that matches your personal style and character and publish it to your business card section of the profile page.

Some of the best things about naymz.com is the fact that it allows you connect to anyone on the network without any restrictions.  It allows you to do micro-blogging (much like Twitter), have a reputation score for your niche (your Repscore is based on a system of points).  Members earn points by filling in profile details and connecting with other members.  Members with high point scores get benefits that include free Google ads – sponsored links.  It allows you to bring all your social media and networking profiles together all in one place.

Naymz philosophy is “A good professional reputation is the key to effectively networking with other professionals.”

Worth giving it a go? Let us know how you get on?

It’s not good to make your website flashy

Alice

I saw a question on LinkedIn that asked how to optimise a website’s homepage that consisted purely of Flash. Flash is a programme that provides animation with images and graphics for websites, and you probably have come across many examples (I did the other day with a digital marketing firm) where you are greeted with a little ‘show’ of moving graphics that are supposedly meant to be impressive.

This particular website showed a graphic of a computer with a running newsroll describing in a totally unnecessarily cryptic message about how impressive their business was and why you should use their services. The other pages had graphics that moved if you moused over them, but were not immediately understandable with what they represented, and unless you bothered to use your mouse it was unlikely you would have an inclination to progress further.

Luckily someone else had already answered with the correct response to that LinkedIn question – don’t use Flash! – so I was able to confirm he was, in my opinion, quite right.

For starters, Flash, since it only uses images, is not picked up by the search engines. Internet spiders are programmed to only search for words, so will not be able to understand pictures unless they have a ‘alt tag’ attached to them which describes them, an attribute which is also useful for the deaf.

Therefore, since there weren’t any words on that index page that weren’t hidden within a graphic, it was unable to be optimised. OK, you could do the relevant keyword research and populate the meta tags appropriately, but if they were unable to correspond with words on the page associated with them, especially various H-tags, their impact would be severely impeded.

Another problem is that some Flash programmes take time to upload before they can run, which results in a variety of ‘wait’ messages while the process happens. Some websites provide ‘skip’ buttons, but if this is the case, why did they bother with Flash in the first place?

It is becoming a well known fact that the average time a new visitor spends on a website, before they decide whether it is the right one for them, is less than 3 seconds. If after a few seconds you are still waiting for the Flash presentation to start, you can guarantee the majority of visitors won’t bother waiting around.

And the whole point of a homepage of a website is to establish that this is the correct website for the visitor. Not only should they immediately recognise the subject or business type, but it should be made as easy as possible, with recognisable links or click buttons, to progress further into the site.

Not everybody has the inclination or time to waste fathoming out what to do next, it should be instantaneous! Websites are now mediums for finding facts and, more appropriately for Web2.0, interacting with the website’s owners, so the process should be inviting, encouraging, enthusiastic and obvious!

And that means being ‘Flashy’ with your website is, as well as being pretentious, sooo last century!

Is being the fastest the best?

Alice

It is commonplace to hear that an event had received a large audience because it has been publicised on Twitter. This does, of course, depend on how many followers the Twitterer had, what time of day the tweet was sent, how many times, and what it said. And the viral element: how many times it was retweeted, which, in turn, depends on the Twitter accounts it was retweeted by, and who read it…

Social networking is notoriously fast. To those who aren’t old fogies like me, it seems incomprehensible how slow we were 20 years ago, without email, mobile phones or even the internet. Publicising an event would have taken planning, forethought and a considerable amount of legwork: getting flyers printed, distributed and posted up on show; invites sent out to likely friends, relying on the Word of Mouth (a factor now replaced by Word of Mouse); booking done via telephone, in person at a box office or even by post (heavens, not snail mail!).

Of course there are (slightly) slower versions today: texting and status updates on social media do require a bit of a time delay before you get an answer, which should allow you plenty of time to think of something suitable say (if possible). Go a step slower and blogging encourages comments on its posts which, depending on whether they are moderated or not, can become flowing conversations where necessary.

Email newsletters and similar campaigns are maybe the slowest, but booking online via clicking on a link that will direct you immediately to a Paypal or similar shopping cart certainly cuts down the lengthy procedure of finding a box office, and stimulates a more immediate response that eliminates the chance of being forgotten, overlooked or displaced by another event.

But then these slower options do allow more room for information about the event, a phenomenon that is certainly more difficult if restricted to 140 characters (SMS as well as Twitter) or the quick-fire responses on status updates on Facebook, (certainly, as in the case of my daughter, with several open all at once!). Posting up details of the event on a blog, forum, Facebook fanpage or as a discussion on a LinkedIn group will allow a bit more perpetuity than the ‘here, now gone’ scenario of Twitter, so subject to a continuous timeline forever superseding what has gone before.

LinkedIn: Use the power of Answers

Alice

At the end of your navigation links in your LinkedIn profile is a tab called ‘More’. At the top of the drop-down menu that appears when you mouse over it, is the option ‘Answers’. I often wonder why it is tucked away like this when it is, in my mind, an integral part of effective use of LinkedIn.

The Questions and Answers section of LinkedIn is an almost forgotten area that could make or break your expertise status. There is a myriad of different subject matter, easily one for every kind of profession, that provides two purposes: to ask a question (for inquiry, research, information or whatever) and to answer those questions (therefore spreading your expertise in your chosen subject).

The quality and substance of the questions vary (as so does the answers), but social media users today have developed skills in skimming through the unnecessary stuff to focus on the worth-while. This also reflects the methods of asking and answering questions, with certain skills developed to make your response stand out above the rest; a trait that is necessary with today’s noisy internet usage.

‘Answers Home’ shows the most recently submitted questions in no particular order or subject matter. There are some LinkedIn users who make a habit of answering any question that appeals to them, whereas others will prefer to concentrate on their areas of expertise.

‘Advanced Answers Search’ focuses your attention on the subjects you would most like to concentrate on. The category mechanisms provides access to your preference, but sometimes going down a different route will lead you to unexpected subjects that might be of interest. Once you have chosen your subject matter, LinkedIn remembers so you don’t have to do it all over again.

For easy access to relevant questions you might want to answer, you can set up Google Alerts for the questions within your chosen criteria, and these appear as a cookie on your Google homepage or within your RSS feed reader page. Now you can keep track of all questions as they are asked, and be one of the first to answer, or watch them while the discussions develop.

Go to ‘Answer Questions’ and you’ll see that questions are either open (available for answering) or closed (there is usually a time limit on questions which you can extend if necessary). The ‘Expert’ tab shows the most promiscuous answerers, but there is no reason why you can’t become one yourself! If your answer is approved by the questioner it will either be marked as ‘Good’ or, if you’re lucky, ‘Best Answer’. Whatever alocade you receive  will be listed on your profile page in the right sidebar, and ‘Best Answer’ for each subject will be shown in your signature when you answer a question.

And if you have a question to ask, the ‘Ask a Question’ tab provides easy to use fields and menus to publish your question. It is great fun waiting for the answers, which will be emailed to you when they are submitted. Sometimes they are not what you expected, but all are enjoyable to read. When your question has closed, then is the time to select those that are ‘Good’ and finally your ‘Best Answer’, a respected and polite way of saying thank-you, though some questioners have emailed me personally to request more information as well as expressing their gratitude.

LinkedIn Groups for interaction, publicity and knowledge

Alice

A great feature of LinkedIn is the groups. There are literally thousands to choose from, in a similar myriad of subjects, levels and sociability.

Locate them through the ‘Groups’ link at the top of your profile page, and you will automatically go to the list of groups you have joined. These vary from open to closed groups, depending on the whims of the administrators, and subgroups can be created out of a parent group, especially if it has grown too big or commands splitting up to cover further aspects of the group’s subject.

To join a group, either click on ‘Groups You May Like’ where a selection of groups that marry up to the keywords you have provided on your profile page (another reason to complete your profile as fully as you can) will be offered to you, or you could search out relevant groups via their categories (alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non-profit, professional or other) and in whatever language you prefer (LinkedIn is, of course, international).

Choosing a category will concentrate the selection, and the search field above that will focus it further. The more succinct you are with your keywords, the better the results. The groups are listed with the most popular (or with the most members) at the top, and closed groups show a little locked sign before the title, which means you will have to be accepted by the administrators before you can contribute.

Once you’ve entered a group, you will see a status update field for you to add in your own contribution (a comment, discussion, question, link to blog post, article or newsletter issue, or whatever you want to share) with the other entries listed below. There is a moving gallery of the latest discussions entered by members, and a discussion hierarchy can be allocated by the administrators for extra promotion.

You will also get email notifications of new discussions whenever they are entered, and when you have contributed to a particular discussion and others have commented so you can follow the conversation and reply if necessary. Discussions thrive on interaction, and some provide a lot of knowledge on particular subjects that I have found to be very useful.

You can check out the other members of the group to see if they are worth connecting with, or to read their profiles if their contributions was particularly noteworthy.  There are other links to publicise promotions and a job board to find new recruits or better employment! The ‘Search’ link allows you to view all the discussions made on the group to backtrack a particular subject or find a comment that is useful to you. And the ‘More’ tab reveals ‘Updates’, ‘My Activity’, ‘My Settings’, ‘Subgroups’ and ‘Group Profile’.

If you are so inclined, you could start your own group. It is very easy to create one, and much enjoyment, knowledge, interaction and opportunities could be obtained through accomplishing such an activity.

Do some Christmas giving via LinkedIn

Alice

‘Tis the season to give and take, and this should not be confined to presents under the Christmas tree! Business thrives on giving and taking, especially within social media, and really this sort of altruism shouldn’t be limited to the last days of December!

The title mentions LinkedIn, so how do you give and take in this form of social media?

A major part of the LinkedIn profile is the ‘Recommendations’ area under ‘Experience’. This is where past and present clients who have been pleased or impressed with your business activities can leave you a testimonial or recommendation, and this listing will show prospective clients or employees how satisfied the givers are with what you have done for them, and if you’re lucky they may even state the project successes amongst the other nice things.

And if you’re vain, you do have the opportunity to ‘edit’ the testimonial, but then that would defeat the object! I think you should accept praise or criticism in whatever form it is presented to you, even if it doesn’t quite meet your expectations or match your desired patterns or forecasts. People see you in their own way, and this can be quite enlightening – after all, as every marketer knows, feedback in any form is good and should be valued and acted upon.

It’s always pleasant to receive presents (albeit recommendations), so why not give one back in return? Summaries of the recommendations you give to others are listed in your sidebar of your profile, a nice touch to show off your altruism that always looks good to whoever reads up about you.

So why not send someone a testimonial or recommendation today (big hint from us at Appletree!) so we can send one back to you too!