12 Most Effective Networking Tactics

12 Most Effective Networking Tactics

Networking can be a dirty word.

There’s NETWORKING – use a hand flourish to really get your point across here – where the bossy, egotistical guy or gal shoves their business card into your hand whilst explaining their expertise in expertise experience!

Then there’s networking – where the mousy, insecure person mumbles into a cocktail napkin and asks you if you know anyone who is hiring for someone with no skills or much personality.

And there’s online networking – where complete strangers from across town or across the globe ask to link with you on LinkedIn so they can stalk your associates and ruin your relationships.

I’ve been a big believer in old fashioned networking – which is really just meeting people (in real life and online) and staying in touch and being a decent human being. We all WANT to be decent, but sometimes work and deadlines help us forget how to be decent, even when we don’t want anything.

Here are my 12 Most Effective Networking Tactics

1. Meet People

Well, duh, right? However if you’re a busy corporate-type or work from home entrepreneur with nothing but a laptop to keep you company, it’s pretty easy to NOT meet people in real life. Make it a point to do something every once in a while.

2. Participate Online

Don’t be the guy who join Facebook, never uploads a picture, never comments or participates, then acts like it doesn’t work. You need to join in, be proactive, and let others know you’re paying attention.

3. Support Others Before They Ask You

If you see your friend trying to get blog readers, event goers, product buyers or company promoters, then help them out, even if it’s not totally your thing. I often promote events I can’t attend or click “Like” on a friend’s Facebook page. Do unto others has a whole new meaning in social media.

4. Be Nice

If you are snarky, critical and just plain mean all the time, people won’t like you. It’s that simple. I’m all for fun and wit, but if snarky comments are all you offer, prepare to be shunned at the networking lunch table. Do us all a favor and just be nice.

5. Compliment Someone Else’s Work

Nothing makes someone’s day like hearing an unexpected compliment. Go out of your way to approach the speaker you just heard to say “Thanks. That was great!” (Just be sure you really mean it.) Make it a point to compliment someone randomly one time a day. I have fun sending the occasional LinkedIn recommendation when someone isn’t expecting it. Don’t check the box asking for one in return – just do it to make THEIR day.

6. Collaborate!

If you have a big project approaching or want to expand on an idea, reach out to your network. Ask someone for their expertise. It’s flattering for them and helps you both understand how to work together, refer each other and look out for clients or opportunities.

7. Ask Tons of Questions

What Do You Do? It’s a great place to start. But get creative and help others talk about themselves and their passions. They will feel great and you will be remembered.

8 Crowdsource

Another prime use of social media – reach out to your community and ask for help or opinions. They will appreciate being included and you’ll get great input. Just be sure to say thank you!

9. Say Thank You OFTEN

I once referred a job posting to a friend looking for work and she bit my head off in an email because it wasn’t exactly in line with what she was looking for. Do you think I EVER sent her another job lead? If she had said, “Thanks for thinking of me!” and then explained my mistake, I would’ve been on the lookout for as long as she needed.

10. Say No Sometimes

In the last few years, it’s hard to know so many people looking for work and want to help. Sometimes, people overreach. Say no when it becomes a burden on your time. Otherwise, the relationship will suffer and you will resent them. Do what you can to refer them to places that CAN help, but sometimes a graceful exit is really best for everyone.

11. Follow Up Pronto

When I meet someone at an event, I make it a point to connect on LinkedIn within a day or so. Otherwise, memories fade quickly. Leverage your in-person meetings by creating a long-term connection online.

12. Don’t Just Network When You Need Something

Probably my biggest pet peeve is hearing from someone ONLY when they are in need. It’s worse when those same people don’t respond/participate/interact with others when they are in need. Nobody likes this. Reach out often and support your connections so they will be there for you when you do need something.

What about you? What ways do you stay connected to your connections? What are your suggestions for how to or how not to network?

Featured image courtesy of jcoterhals licensed via creative commons.

Jeannie Walters


Jeannie Walters is the founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. She is a board member of the Chicago chapter of the Social Media Club and a member of Faith Popcorn’s Talent Bank, a group of experts tapped for trend-setting information.

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