There are lots of different connotations of the concept of networking. They all seem to be slightly, if not directly related, while being just a bit different. Before ‘Y2K’ and ‘Web2.0′ networking was touted as an effective way to do business in the sense of finding the best jobs or clients, etc.
In particular it was thought that for the better jobs, people in the hiring chair would be more apt to respond to applicants that had been recommended to them by their peers, or who they had some association with or at least knowledge of. In other words not just a nameless face off the street or anonymous resume sent to the human resources department.
There was a real science to networking offline, for example if you were networking at a company or industry function, you might meet a number of people and give them your business card at the end of the conversation. However it was considered very gauche if you said anything at all direct on the first meeting or conversation. This means no asking ‘do you know of any jobs?’ or even ‘let’s do lunch’. It helped to always keep in mind the best definition of networking, ‘to know and be known without having any agenda’.
Following this initial introduction you might follow-up at a later time in the near future. At this juncture you might mention your goals or the fact that you are interested in learning more about the industry, or company, and invite the person to lunch or some upcoming mutually interesting business function. Like many other things networking is best taken slowly and politely – nothing blunt or rude about it. In other words nobody likes to feel they are being exploited.
For the Internet marketing industry, this same interaction, primarily online, would be referred to as ‘building a relationship’ and the theory is that people are more apt to do business with someone they know, even as an acquaintance, than just some nameless yay-hoo that waves a flyer (ad) in their face. It is actually quite natural and more comfortable to do business with someone you trust and have some level of communication with than a total stranger.
Some other connotations of ‘network’ and a close cousin of Internet marketing, is network marketing. While both niches or industries may also involve ‘multi-level marketing’, one of the differences is the communication medium. Whereas Internet marketing primarily involves ethical, permission-based eMail marketing, online forums, and web conferencing, for example, network marketing seemingly involves more phone and in-person events – more personal contact.
Then of course with Web2.0 evolved social networking and with it more mobile devices and texting (real-time) or direct digital communications. Now the field is wide-open in that you can network with personal and business friends at the same time and theoretically expose your family and friends to your business ideas and opportunities.
Social networking seems to have replaced the days of online bulletin board systems (bbs) which were just massive boards with millions of ads. If we can navigate through that and meet up with folks to have a discussion that may be conducive to business, it could be beneficial to use social networking as a means to an end.
Last but not least is networking in the technical sense, for example local area and long distance networks; and of course the biggest network of all, and conglomeration of hundreds of smaller networks, the Internet (inter-network). The information super-highway. The ‘mall’ where your online business is located somewhere in cyberspace!