Business networking is a big part of how business deals get done these days — but it has become harder and harder to make business networking beneficial.

For some people, face-to-face networking at meetings for professional groups and association chapters works well to meet new people.

For others, online networking using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail discussion lists works well to increase the number of connections, friends, and followers.

I have used both methods for a long time, and they work well for meeting new people. But both fall short when it comes to growing a relationship with someone you’ve met. That takes a different type of networking. It takes engaging in activities together over time.

Tony Karrer has cone up with a technique called “Visible Networking” that’s likely to overcome some of these problems. With Visible Networking a group of people have their networking conversations online in public:

What do I mean by visible networking, well it’s simply the idea that instead of having a 30 minute phone conversation, why not have that conversation out in public view. Twitter is pretty much that already. But I’m thinking about deeper conversations than I have on twitter. So, clearly it would make sense to do this in my blogs. And I’m thinking about having these conversations both with people I already know and people that I’ve just met or are just getting to know.

I told Tony:

Your idea of “Visible Networking” can help people take the “glad to meet you” networking to the next level — “glad to know you” relationships. Then, face-to-face meetings and activities become much more valuable.
I see Visible Networking as a series of conversations around blog posts, and encouraging a group of people to actively participate. It’s like a dinner discussion where a topic is discussed, then the group moves to the next topic.

Yes, blogs has been touted as a place to have conversations, but Tony is doing Visible Networking by starting the conversation in a blog post, then continuing the conversation in the comments. And, since he’s using a public blog anyone can join the conversation.

This technique can work well for any group, organization, or association chapter where many members don’t know each other. Visible Networking can help give visibility to each member, and encourage other members to participate in the conversations.