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Before the Internet came along the business and social term “networking” meant getting together with people at an event, party, or other activity where you could meet people you didn’t already know.

Today, the term “social networking” has become popular with the buzzword creators to include online relationships with people we never meet face-to-face.
Every day each of us has a limited amount of time to grow our network. So, it’s important to decide how to balance our time between online networking and face-to-face networking opportunities.

Ever since discussion groups became popular, individuals have been forming online relationships and sharing information about experiences. Throughout the ’90s I was involved in many online discussion groups, especially those dealing with marketing.
Today, the discussion mailing lists and Web forums have been joined by blogs, project collaboration Web sites, and the social networking connection Web sites.
I’ve met a tremendous number of people online over the past 15 years. What has surprised me is that it’s the people I have also meet face-to-face who have become part of my network of long-term relationships.

Why is it that e-mail and other online communications cannot replace face-to-face interaction for creating strong, long-term relationships?

It seems that as beneficial as online relationships are, sharing information about experiences is not the same as actually sharing the experience face-to-face with another person.

After you’ve attended a number of business networking events and have collected a stack of business cards from contacts, you may ask yourself, “What do I do with these contacts?”

One of the key benefits of networking is being able to weave contacts into a network of people who can help each other.

If you keep your contacts from knowing with each other, there’s little way they can work together to help you achieve your objectives. On the other hand, if you have introduced many of your contacts to each other, it’s easy for them to work with each other in ways that benefit both them and you.

While it’s possible for the contacts you introduce to each other to exclude you from their activities, that’s very unlikely when you are a key part of their lives.
So, how do you introduce contacts to each other? Here are a few ways to introduce your contacts to each other.

  • Introduce two contacts to each other when you see both of them at a networking event.
  • Send an introductory e-mail to both people describing a bit about each person and why you think they would be interested in knowing each other.
  • Schedule a conference telephone call for all three of you so you can introduce them to each other.
  • Schedule a breakfast, lunch, or dinner where the three of you can meet.

Each person will be impressed that you’ve made a special effort to help them meet someone they’re likely to be interested in knowing.

The more you’re able to introduce people to each other, the tighter your network becomes, and the more everyone in your network will benefit from knowing each other.

Eileen Parzek offers several good networking tips in her article Networking without the Work — and answers the burning question, “How many people do I need to meet at a networking event?”

  • Think about the types of relationships you would like to build for your business network.
  • Network with people you want to be like or you respect.
  • Ask sincere questions of the people you meet, and learn about them.
  • Research before the networking event how you could help people in that group.
  • Follow up with the people you met.
  • Have a good relationship management process in place.

Great tips for everyone who attends networking events.

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