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Networking – On-Line and In-Person


ON-LINE SOCIAL NETWORKS

As I’m sure we all know by now, social networking is the new “THING” in business. Whether you view it as a fad, or as a phenomenon that will change the course of business, you know it’s something you can’t ignore. For the most part this media is free, so why wouldn’t you want to use it?

There are tons of paid consultants who can help business owners set up a marketing plan based on social networking, as well as many websites that gives lots of free information. Having said that, let me say that I am not an expert in this new media! I’ve been stumbling around this landscape for a while and am just now starting to get a little comfortable with it. What this means is that I’m not going to offer any suggestions on how best to use these new tools – I’ll leave that to the experts. What I would like to do is share some of the sites that we use at Daybreak, and perhaps encourage you to visit those sites to see if they might be helpful to your business. I’d also like to know what has worked well for you.

TWITTER (www.twitter.com): This is the one that has most everyone confused. It wouldn’t seem like a source for business marketing, but it is being used fairly extensively. One company I know uses twitter to feed their website so anyone visiting the site can see what projects are being worked on at that time, and to show the diversity of the company and its employees. Others use it to drive business to their website, and still others just to keep their name in view.

LINKEDIN (www.linkedin.com): This is the classic business networking site that I’m sure everyone is aware of. It’s a powerful tool, yet it’s being grossly underutilized. For instance, I have about 90 or so contacts on LinkedIn. In just about every case, it’s someone who I’m comfortable referring clients to. What that means is that you can look over my contacts and I’ll be comfortable to make an introduction. Since each of my contacts have contacts, the network can quickly become quite vast – yet most people don’t seem to be tapping into it effectively.

FACEBOOK (www.facebook.com): This one is probably the most fun. Although it’s primary focus is social, some have said that it is positioned to surpass LinkedIn as the business marketing tool of the future. After about 18 months of badgering by my family to join, I opened an account, but really did it for the purpose of marketing. After creating my personal account, I created a business page as well as a Pay Per Click ad. I had planned to focus most of my time on the marketing aspect of Facebook. HOWEVER, I have to admit that I’ve come to enjoy the social interactions of Facebook, and usually neglect the business side of it. One value that I do see is that it can give your business a personal “face”. As people begin to see the personal side of the business owner, the business begins to develop that personality. Not a bad thing!

– One suggestion: If you are on Facebook to market, don’t be too obvious about it. When people see that the only post from a person is an advertisement for their product or service, it’s a turn-off.

HUDSON VALLEY BIZ.COM (www.hvbiz.com): Not to be mistaken for the publication with that name. This is a network created by Edison Guzman which has a layout similar to Facebook. Although registration is currently free of charge, there is a notation that it may become a fee-based network in the future, although current members will reportedly lock in their free status. It’s worth checking out to see if it’s a fit for your business.

There are many other on-line social networking groups that can be helpful to small business owners. Leave a comment and let us know which ones you use and why you like them.

IN-PERSON NETWORKING

These are groups that most of us are familiar with. They meet at regular intervals to exchange information, swap business cards, etc. The most classic examples are the local chambers of commerce. They all provide venues for business card exchanges, seminars, breakfasts, lunches, etc. They each have different strengths and weaknesses, so I would encourage each business owner to check out the local chambers and find the best fit based on your needs.

BNI (Business Networking International): This is a worldwide networking organization that is based on the model of “Givers Gain.” That is, the philosophy that the more you give and invest in others, the more you will receive.

– Side Note: This “givers gain” philosophy is tried and true. Isn’t it interesting that it mimics the bible’s “Do unto others…” and the non-business model of “What goes around, comes around…?” Nothing significant – it just struck me as interesting!

Anyway, each chapter consists of non-competing business categories that get to know each other well enough that a comfort level is created for cross-referrals. People who are interested in the organization can visit local chapters twice and then decide if they would like to join. The Hudson Valley BNI website is www.bnihudsonvalley.com and the international website is www.bni.com. Although BNI is not a fit for every type of business, I would encourage you to check them out – it could be profitable. Daybreak is a member of BNI and we have found be worthwhile.

Although BNI seems to be the most influential network in our area, there are other similar groups that can be checked out (www.letip.com, www.hudsonvalleybusinessalliance.com, etc.). If you know of others first-hand, leave a comment and let us know about them and, if you are a member, the value you find in them.

– Quick note: Most of the BNI-type groups consider themselves exclusive and will not permit members to join other groups that follow the same “non competion/referral model.” Fair? Probably not, but I do understand their reasoning.

Entrepreneurial Excellence Network
(www.meetup.com/Entrepreneurial-Excellence-Hudson-Valley): This group is a spin-off of the Hudson Valley BNI Network by it’s Director, Frank DeRaffele. Although many BNI members attend these twice-monthly networking events, non BNI members are also welcome to attend. The evening meetings generally consist of a time for general networking, light dinner, presentation by a speaker, and table networking/problem solving. They are currently being held twice a month – once in Newburgh, NY and once in Poughkeepsie, NY. Although still evolving, these meetings seem to have a lot of potential.

Hudson Valley Business Networking Meetup Group (www.meetup.com/HVBusinessNetwork): This is a new group that is forming in the Newburgh, NY area. The organizer, David E. Dirks, is in the process of recruiting new members and will be planning events in the near future.

There are many others, but these are the events that we at Daybreak make every effort to attend, in addition to the six Chambers of Commerce that we belong to (Ulster County, Dutchess Regional, New Paltz Regional, Orange, Rockland Bus Assoc and Mahwah).

TO CLOSE: I hope you’ve found this information helpful. As noted earlier, I would encourage you to leave a comment to let us all know of other venues that you have found helpful. For instance, we are considering opening an office in Manhattan, so I’d like to know if anyone networks in NYC and, if so, what is the venue and how how has it helped you?

Best regards,

Jeff Mehl