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Do I Need To Join A Business Networking Club?

A summmary of areas to consider, when deciding which group to attend, or join.

t strikes me that one of the issues with online networking is that it is included as part of "social media", not helped when LinkedIn et al are described as "Facebook for business".

Although I have dabbled with Ecademy, Naymz and a couple of other sites, I use LinkedIn to a far greater extent, so any mention of features and activities is based on that experience.

To my way of thinking, LinkedIn is a business networking site – part of business media. There are discussion groups which, although they could be around any common grouping, are largely to do with business, or work, in one form or another. The questions and answers section is similarly filled with business topics and tips. Ultimately, the prime motivator to connect or join, is the business connection, with colleagues, former colleagues, suppliers, customers and all those who might fit those categories, which may well include friends.

The profile is divided into areas to describe your experience and education or qualifications and the summaries are generally about business. If you read through the more comprehensive profiles, you will see they mirror what many people put on their corporate websites or cvs. A LinkedIn profile can contain far more detail than a cv and you can include personal recommendations – more about that in another edition.

On the other hand, Facebook is a social networking site – most people use it to find and keep in contact with friends. Sometimes the relationships may have originated in business and may continue to do so, but the prime motivator is the friendship. Discussions are "wall to wall" around one persons activity and publicity abounds about advertising parties and social activities to everyone, instead of just your friends. I wont deny there is a growing use of fan pages and groups for business use although my impression is that this is largely within the B2C market, rather than B2B at the moment and isnt the most widely-used parts of the site.

You may ask "What difference does it make what its called?" I believe that one of the reasons many people are reticent to use LinkedIn, either to sign up in the first place or "do much" once theyve been persuaded to set up a profile, is because they are introduced to social media not business media and thats where their perceptions and assumptions start. Lots of business people struggle to see the value of face to face networking (have a look at Marchs posts if this is a concern of yours) and perceive an organised event as a "jolly" so how are they going to relate to business through something called social media.

What about connecting with a stranger? It is just not the way "we do things". I would have thought its easier to connect with a stranger on line through a shared group or discussion, than to walk into a room of people you dont know and strike up conversation with said stranger. These groups are usually by invitation or acceptance, so theres a common reason why you are both within that group which gives the majority of people a reason to connect or, as someone else put it "reach out to others". It is also easy to leave a group and break a connection, if you really want to and Im not going to go into detail about how to connect, join a group, answer a question or anything else here – theres stacks out there already.

So, if you are reading this with a "Yes, but" going through your head or "Well, thats okay for you to say, youre good with I.T." have another think and do some research. I was not an avid early adopter; Ive only been using LinkedIn to any great extent since the middle of 2009 and Facebook Im still working on. Today, I have almost 5001 connections on LinkedIn, and am building ties with people using web and face-to-face in a way I hadnt thought possible. Ive helped, and been helped, by people from thousands of miles away as well as a few hundred miles and within walking distance.

Oh yes – I am currently doing some work for a client through a former colleague I hadnt seen for five years. We found each other on LinkedIn!

Have a go – what have you got to lose?

Sue Cohen has more than 20 years experience in Learning and Development.

She started her working life as an accountant and moved into training accountancy and other technical skills, before moving into skills and management training.
Over the last 20 years, she has helped many middle and senior managers to develop their management and personal skills including teamwork and leadership, performance management, networking and collaboration skills.

For a number of years, she was the senior manager within an in-house training team for a large firm of accountants, managing a team of trainers and the budgets, along with various firm-wide projects.
She now works as an independent learning consultant, largely with professional services firms.

As you can see from her book, her work with LinkedIn has evolved alongside her consultancy business. The use of LinkedIn has become an important element of her work with clients on relationship-building and networking skills.

Outside of work, Sue is a busy family person and relaxes with Sudoku puzzles and knitting.

Links / contact
(+44) 07971 400653 / (+44) 020 8953 6477

Sue Cohen

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