Just a decade ago, when your mobile phone was little more than a brick in your pocket and driverless vehicles were wishful thinking, networking at business events was very important. In fact, if you didn’t go to them, your name and business were invisible to your local business community. Nowadays, with the business landscape moving online, the same thing applies. If your profile is not online in the places it should be, you simply don’t exist. While having no presence online at all is professional suicide, writes Jeff Yang, director of Social Gen.
When I first entered the business world, it was important to keep a calendar of all the relevant business networking events for the year and attend them. The events themselves could be breakfast events (always super early in the morning), lunch-time or evening events. Those evening events often meant I was only home at 10pm, and with a belly full of cocktail snacks, I would carefully tuck all the business cards I had collected into my little business card folder.
After that, it was important to maintain contact with those people. I had learnt that it was important to not sell to them the first time I met them, but gradually discuss my business’ services each time I saw them. And I definitely started to take note of some of the familiar faces – we would attend the same events, perhaps email one another occasionally, and I would often see them in the “in” places to be for my industry – that bar, restaurant or club. Some of them would gradually become clients of my company, and my company also would buy from them on occasion and on my suggestion. Everyone knew what they were doing, and everyone understood the importance of being out and about.
Then suddenly social media entered the business arena, and personal brands began to grow online.
It seemed that if you weren’t online, just like if you weren’t at ‘those’ events, you and your business simply don’t exist either.
Whenever I discuss the importance of having an online presence, people are usually keen and know it’s important. Often they are waiting for a decent chunk of time so that they can do it properly, or they want to get it done professionally and are saving up for it. In the meantime, they don’t put anything up online at all. They figure it’s better to be invisible online than to have some kind of representation that isn’t perfect or what they would like the end result to be. But can you see how that’s worse? If there really is nothing about you online, and your name is invisible online, you simply don’t exist.
In fact, it’s just the same as not turning up at all to those networking events. Remember how you forced yourself to go, even if you were feeling a bit sick or having a bad hair day? You knew if you didn’t go and show your face, people would slowly forget about you – you couldn’t remain top of mind and you may even miss out on the meeting person who will make your career. Afterwards, there was always a sense of satisfaction that you did go.
Nobody at the event noticed that you weren’t wearing the shoes that you absolutely need on your feet! In fact, prior to the event, you had vowed you weren’t going to another event until you had the best and most perfect shoes. Well, do you think the people you spoke to noticed your shoes were less than perfect? They wanted to talk about how your services could help their suite of clients, not look at your shoes!
Of course, the real winners are those who nurture their personal brand online. And by that, it could be blogs or articles demonstrating their online knowledge, reviews and testimonials, etc. But if you don’t have the time or money and are wondering whether to start with something basic, the answer is yes! It doesn’t have to be perfect – but leave some kind of footprint online. It can be small and simple for now, and you can always add to it later. Remember that doing something is better than doing nothing!