There is an old adage that seems to have been lost in recent years: Business is about relationships.
With so many transactions going on the Internet these days, there has been a sort of disconnect that has even affected face to face dealings in the past five years, especially.
But with the rise of social networking and the way so many companies have been using it to touch base with customers and potential customers, that is now changing once again and the world is going back to normal.
While it is important to utilize social networking for your customer base, that isn't where the tool ends.
Sites such as LinkedIn have shown that social media can also be used to network with others in the business world, building those ever important connections and relationships that can move you further up the ladder and better establish you as at the top of your game.
Networking During Conferences
Perhaps the best time to establish these connections is during conferences.
You have access to hundreds, sometimes thousands of others in the same or similar fields. Business cards have always been the way such things were handled. But think back to the last time you went to a conference and collected those cards; how many did you really keep in touch with? Social media makes this ever easier.
Instead of just taking a card and trying to remember each face and detail, you have a way into the business life they have portrayed online.
Not only that, but you give them similar access and a way to easily share you to others, increasing the range of your network with expansion capabilities never known before.
Tips To Best Utilize Social Media For Networking
* Prepare Ahead Of Time
You should already have a business only social networking account, or several.
Whether that is LinkedIn or the more casual Twitter, it should only be used for business purposes, and all personal interactions, such as friends and family, should remain on a different profile. This will make it easier for you to start mentioning the conference ahead of time, without it being lost in the fray of updates and comments. Try mentioning it a week in advance in order to spark some conversation.
Then, put together a list of four or five companies/contacts that you would especially like to meet up with there, and alert them personally.
* Update Regularly
Not every contact or relevant business will be at the conference, but that does not mean they aren't important networking targets.
Update your profile regularly with anything from the conference you can. Write status updates about what is going on, leave interesting links to articles you know on subjects being discussed, or even post some cell phone videos and pictures.
Make your profile the place to go for info on the conference, and then use that to make connections with new people who were not in attendance but are in your field.
* Use Google Alerts
It might be the professional equivalent to stalking, but for those more important contacts you can set up Google Alerts to monitor major news or activity. This will keep you up to date before going to the conference, which will help you to not only break the ice, but be better prepared for any business discussions that might be necessary.
* Post Q&A Answers
After most lectures and presentations, there will be the all important Q&A portion of the event. Write down your questions during the talks and try to get them answered, then post the answers on your account.
You can also keep track of what other people are saying, and post that, as well. This is a good way to share information and bring further contacts to your profile.
* Keep In Touch
Once you have built a fair amount of contacts on your social media account, engage them.
On LinkedIn you can be supportive and professional, and more casual on Facebook and Twitter. Keep up with blogs and really engage them in conversation on a regular basis.
If you keep up with it, it is a simple way to build a business relationship that can mean great things for future collaborations or contact.
Social networking has provided us with an unprecedented way of communicating with people from all over the world. When it comes to your business, one of the best things you can do is use it to make connections and maintain them.
Next time you have a conference coming up, prepare early and then use it as a useful tool. You will be pleased with the results.
Photo credit: dsc.discovery.com
About the author: Olivia Sherwood is a social media marketer blogging for PsPrint, an online printing company specializing in brochure and poster printing among other popular services. For further information on the company, you can follow PsPrint on Twitter.