You've gotta get yourself connected
LinkedIN has had its troubles lately, not least having to turn to the FBI to investigate a password hacking problem. In spite of this, it's still the networking tool of choice for Irish business people, with most of those we polled saying they would still use it.
There are 550,000 Irish LinkedIn users -- more per head of population than anywhere else in the world.
But it's far from the only networking platform, with 'who knows who' site DataHug and jobs social media outfit Skillpages attracting major investors and expanding. There are also resources like Ecademy and Bravenewtalent.
Here's how things are evolving beyond bland canapes in hotel conference rooms.
Six million passwords reportedly leaked on a Russian website is never good, but there are still more pros than cons to using this Facebook-for-business network tool.
"LinkedIn is very good for being active and generating leads," says communications consultant, Damien Mulley. "Getting a connection request accepted is your foot in the door.
"I would probably say that someone that's connected with you is worth €5-€10 per interaction, but if I managed to connect to a COO of a company I would see that as being worth a couple of hundred euro."
You can target exactly who you want to engage with, adds Mulley. "Say you're looking for people that work in the pharmaceutical industry, put that in LinkedIn's search box and it will show relevant industry people and show how close they are on your network.
"If you're going to a conference, you can look up speakers, research who they are and what they do."
Discussion groups on LinkedIn are valuable if you pick the right ones. "You can engage with people in your industry and show off your subject matter expertise by answering questions and posting useful information."
There's the Irish Executives group that includes senior technology industry figures like Brian Caulfield and John Hartnett, for example, and the 1,000-member Irish Angel Investors forum is hopping at the moment.
You can avail of paid features to boost your access to the right people. "Professional networkers might use InMail, where you can contact someone whether you're connected or not," says Mulley.
For a sales professional wanting to prove their hot contacts to a potential employer, their LinkedIn profile can show that they have good calibre connections with people who have accepted their contact requests.
There's a 'recommendations' option where you can ask peers to endorse you. "It works best if these are written like a case study," advises Mulley. "Not just bland phrases like 'works well with others."
Mulley recommends setting your LinkedIn profile to 'public' so that it comes up on Google searches.
"Noisy as Twitter is, it is good for building business relationships," says Mulley. "Say for people in the food industry, it is the space for networking, exchanging information about food festivals and events."
Mulley observed tweet-powered networking in action ahead of a recent Apple developer conference. "Someone would tweet that they'd just flown in and ask if anybody else is around, hashtagging the event. There were a lot of people meeting up for the first time that would only know each other from Twitter."
It's important to remember that old rules still apply to the new networking. "It goes back to traditional skills," says Mulley. "Introduce who you are, say what you do and feed the relationship. Even though you're online, you still have to 'work the room'."
The 'search' motherlode
Comment can blaze a trail across Google that can showcase who you are and what you do. Contributing to discussion on news and other sites can come up in searches.
"Another good networking tool is to start writing a blog," Mulley suggests. "It's a way to have your own space to get people to connect with you. You need to be clever in how you do it and include the words and phrases you want to appear in searches," he adds.
Likewise in online professional profiles, it's important to use keywords that crop up easily in searches. Use key phrases: 'tax expert' or 'restructuring specialist', etc.
The Companies Registration Office database is a potential mine of contacts. You can check the directors of a company, its senior managers and its investors, to establish who has the power there.
Sunday Indo Business