Originally published on April 10, 2017. Updated on May 4, 2020.
Does word-of-mouth networking even work anymore? Or has it been replaced with digital or social media networks? We hear this question a lot. We believe they are both integral to any business’s marketing plan and should be strategically planned and implemented.
Networking is an important part of business. It will help you stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, find new business opportunities, meet prospective partners and clients and build awareness of your own brand. At the end of the day, people do business with people and connections matter.
Benefits of social media networking
Social media is a fantastic method of networking, in fact, we are big fans! The stats are impressive regarding the power of social media to influence consumers through people networking digitally. For instance:
- 50% of shoppers have made a purchase based on a recommendation through a social media network
- 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online
- The average consumer mentions brands 90 times/week in in their interactions with other people.
There are a few best practices that we have found to be helpful for business professionals who want to use social media networking as part of their marketing plan.
- Focus your time and energy on two social media networks. In Alaska, we have found that Facebook and LinkedIn are a great combo for business-to-business networking (B2B), while Facebook and Pinterest is a good option for business-to-consumer (B2C) industries
- Be consistent with your interaction. Here are 10 tips to optimize your social media.
- Offer helpful information that your target audience will find useful in their daily lives. We’re here to add value to their lives by helping them find the products or services they need, so don’t sell your products or services directly. This is important – you can read more about whether marketing is the new sales.
There is no denying the power of networking through social media to a wide range of age groups, but it’s most effective when coupled with word-of-mouth networking. Word-of-mouth is the original and best form of marketing. We can come up with effective digital strategies until we’re blue in the face, but if your product or service is good, people will talk about it. It’s the most effective marketing tool you’ll ever hope to have.
Benefits of word-of-mouth networking
Some refer to this style of networking as “old fashioned” or “traditional” networking. It’s been around since the first product was put up for sale and it’s still incredibly persuasive in purchase decisions. In fact:
- 3.3 billion brand mentions in 2.4 brand-related conversations happen offline in America ever day
- 54% of Americans say that their purchase decisions are driven by word-of-mouth
- 59% of Americans believe offline or word-of-mouth to be highly credible
Word-of-mouth networking gives people a chance to build deeper relationships and increase trust. This increased trust often leads to more qualified referrals, longer professional relationships, and more profitable transactions.
As part of a targeted marketing plan, we recommend business professionals be part of at least three face-to-face networking groups. The best combination is to join two soft touch groups and one referral, focused group.
For example, if you live in Anchorage, AK, you could try:
- A local or state chamber of commerce like our local Anchorage Chamber.
- A professional association for your industry like the American Association of Graphic Designers Alaska (AIGA) or the Public Relations Society of America Alaska (PRSA).
- Service clubs like Rotary or Lions , which often include many local business leaders.
A referral based organization like BNI is what is called a hard contact referral network because the whole organization’s focus is increasing the business for each member through referrals and word-of-mouth networking. This is also a good option to consider if you’re looking to drive brand awareness quickly.
Secrets to effective networking
No matter your target audience, it’s important to get the most of our networking and leverage the power of both social media and word-of-mouth. Used together, they allow business professionals to be highly effective at not only getting their message out to their target markets but also to build profitable client relationships.
The key, either way, is to follow up. Take your connection to the next level and get to know your new contact as a real person rather than an opportunity to boost your business. If you’ve met online, follow up with an email linking an interesting article or asking for an opinion. If you’ve met in person, follow up with an invitation to coffee or another industry event. No-one wants to stay connected with a robot.
Networking is a two-way street. It’s not just about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them as well. Connect thoughtfully. Ask people about themselves. Talk about their projects. Offer considered thoughts. Give advice if they ask. Successful networking requires give-and-take, but who knows who you’ll meet?
Need help developing your brand? Schedule a free consultation today.