Whether we see it or not, technologies are continuing to rapidly grow and redefine our behaviors, and all of us are merely rolling with the current.
It's 2019. All digital marketing channels, especially social media, are heavily evolving with AI and Machine Learning advances. With platforms like Facebook's new video algorithms changing how we consume and discover content, and Instagram's shopping craze and recent direct story links feature taking the nod from Snapchat, one thing has become abundantly clear: your online presence and representation matters now more than ever.
For the majority of us who aren't market analyzers, it all understandably falls in the backdrop. You're in college trying to secure an internship or hopefully a full-time offer, so why does all of this matter to you? Beyond changing our social media habits, it sets the precedent for how we engage, judge, and form relationships with companies and our peers. In other words, it dictates how and with whom we choose to interact and support.
So here are 10 ways you or your small college startup can adjust their networking habits to stay above the tide, both on and offline.
1. Take every opportunity to meet new faces
You're exhausted from hearing it from famous innovators, every childhood-friend entrepreneur who went to your high school, or your nauseating 23-year-old brother who has yet to move out of the house, so we'll say it again: "it's not what you know, it's who you know." (Take it with a grain of salt in life, and a grain of sugar in business networking.) Chalk it up to credibility, likability, or that desire for compatibility and good office vibes, but relationships are doorways and you never know who you're actually talking to and who they might know.
2. Remember what networking is about
Authenticity is more sought after today in the era of online personas and fake news. So be authentic and socialize - it's not a time to brag about your accomplishments, name-drop, or selfishly list off your goals, but to show your creative spunk and how your mind works. The goal is to form real connections with like-minded individuals who will want to take you up on that business venture or hook you up with that lucky contact who can expand your reach.
3. Find your niche
Face it: there's no better environment to build your arsenal of contacts and skills than collaborating with others in the same boat. You'll not only be able to form potentially life-long connections, but you'll also gain the wisdom and tools to perfect your craft through learning from others who share your passions. Attend assembly classes, peep on your neighbor's laptop screen during lectures to see what personal projects they're working on and strike a conversation (can vouch for this one). And most importantly, observe the climate and see what it is you can bring to the table. These interactions could almost definitely give you the highest ceiling to branch out and define your brand strategy.
4. Then go outside it
There is perhaps a no better time to meet people in other industries than after you've identified the scope of your skills and contributions among your own people. Remember, some of the most successful collaborations have been born from people who were bound to completely different interests, but even the most opposing assets can complement each other astoundingly. So keep in touch with your old contacts, but stay connected to what your friends in other places are doing and look for opportunities to integrate. You never know until you try. Remember to demonstrate your willingness to return favors. People want to connect with others who provide mutually beneficial relationships. Remember you rarely get more than what you give back.
5. Know your goals and your audience
Whether your plan is to join a professional group or make a commitment to attend industry events within a certain time-frame, you will be much more likely to reach your goals and target audience by making a personal outline before you dive in. You will have far more confidence and success networking once you've defined your purpose.
6. Connect with your customers online
Your first strategy should be situating yourself wherever your customer is. If they habituate on specific online forums or social media, connect with them on their own territory and listen to their ideas and preferences to learn to better accommodate them. This sets you up in a knowledgeable position to design your business in a way that meets their needs and resolves any hurdles along the way.
7. Strengthen your online presence
For the majority, big decisions start with one thing: research. Whether its clients or other industry connections, everyone you can potentially work with is looking right back at you. So nail that first impression as you would in-person: maintain professional photos and a summary of who you are and your skills to give a better sense of what you can contribute. Keep your communication personalized and meaningful and you won't be forgotten when the opportunity arises.
8. Engage, engage, engage
Engaging with your industry and clients through content not only keeps you relevant, but it builds your brand as an industry leader and shows you are in touch with what goes on. So share blog posts, insightful industry news, local networking events — whatever content others will find helpful. By showing you're thinking of them, they'll think of you and might return the favor.
9. Stay connected
As you work on expanding your network, it's easy to forget to maintain your connections, so don't forget to regularly reach out and communicate. This doesn't have to be time-consuming and could even be a few times a year. The key is quality over quantity. Don't bombard your network with messages but keep in touch every now and then with meaningful messages that focus on building your two-way relationship. You can keep it simple by thanking them for advice you took or congratulating them on a new opportunity.
10. Produce meaningful content
If your goal is to reach others, you don't want to produce content that is swiped away after a glance. Social media has seen a shift this year from brand placement to business-customer interactions. Grow your reach by focusing on sharing stories and moments that will matter to people. One way to do this: video. Video strategies have become imperative in 2019, so set your message goals and put your best foot forward in the intro as that may be all viewers will stick around to see. Don't neglect collaboration with influencers. Even having your message shared through thought leaders can bolster your reach unlike anything else and can pave the way to client referrals and joint projects later on.
By using these 10 strategies to advance your networking skills, you'll not only create a more authentic, personal brand that people and businesses will want to work with, but you'll continue to build meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships that will serve your career and make you stand out from your peers.