There are many myths about networking – and let me tell you that in my time as a networker, I have heard them all and busted most of them. But over the last couple of years, with us all being confined to quarters and doing our networking on screen, more and more myths about online networking have emerged.
And when there’s a myth – who you gonna call? Mythbusters!
So, it’s time to get those myths busted . I’m going to take a look at the four big online networking myths – and why they’re just that – myths, not truths – and should be taken with a large grain of salt.
Myth #1 – You can’t form relationships online
Let’s knock this one on the head straight away. I have seen time and time again examples of some great relationships formed through online networking. I only have to think of all the people who told me how much support they gained during the pandemic from their fellow members, many of whom they’d never met. Many Fresh members have given and received referrals to/from people they have never met face to face. It’s not so much about the medium, it’s about the person.
Don’t get me wrong – I know 100% that relationships are enhanced by face to face engagement, and in last month’s blog, I spoke about the importance of social as well as business get togethers. But an interested and interesting person is just as engaging over zoom as in the room. When people say that it’s hard to make connections over zoom, it can be their style, rather than the technology that is holding them back.
I like to think of the online meeting as the magnet that draws people together. Fresh provides the environment, but people make the connection. Networkers attract people to them and make others want to engage – and that is just as possible online as in a café.
Myth #2 – Online networking is for everyone
Networking isn’t a one size fits all, and online isn’t for everyone. The people who benefit the most are those who want no geographic boundaries on their connections, as well as those who are time poor and want the benefits of networking without the travel commitment. But for some, face to face simply works better – for example, I know Fresh members who work alone and value being in the same room with others, who love their café brekkies, who live close to their hub venue, or can be super-productive during their travel time – and for them, a café hub for is perfect.
Myth #3 – Online networkers never meet up
Yes, you can form great relationships online. But…face to face is the icing on the networking cake. It’s true, there is something different about the quality of a relationship once you’ve met the other person, or when you see them again after a break. I saw Mitcham Hub member Lee-Anne Hunt recently for the first time in two years. She was the same bubbly, positive personality as she is online, but just that one meeting reinforced our relationship and made it stronger.
That’s why we structured Fresh Online into local area groups – so that members can catch up face to face from time to time. They don’t need to do it for every meeting, but every now and then they catch up over a coffee, a walk, a social or a charity event. These face to face meetings are the ‘extra bonus’ to online networking.
Our online members tell us they love the combination of ‘no boundaries’ for the fortnightly meetings, and ‘local area’ so that they can easily catch up. Each local area group starts out by meeting with the main state hub, and once it grows to 10 members, has its own meetings. Members have a real incentive to grow their local area hub and get to independent status, knowing that they’re bringing together more people that they can meet with online or face to face.
Myth #4 – You can’t grow a business through online networking
I have a heap of Fresh members who will happily bust this myth. They’re making connections across Australia that are helping to grow their business. A notable example is our 2022 Online Freshie of the Year, Karina Fox. Karina joined our Fresh Online because she wanted to make connections that went beyond her Sydney base and develop her business nationally. Through Fresh Online, she met a financial planner from Melbourne who has been making referrals that have helped her to grow her business in Victoria.
Tips from our Online Freshie of the Year
Karina shares her top tips for getting the most from online networking: “I am always thinking about who I can invite to our online meetings, and I know that other members are doing the same, which is how I grow my connections. When I do meet someone I want to engage with, I follow up with them straight away and arrange a one to one meeting with them – I love hearing more about other people’s businesses in a one to one environment. Often, I’ll invite them to come back to another meeting, and ask them who they know who would also benefit from attending, the more the merrier! It’s amazing how quickly it snowballs – one person invites someone, who invites someone else, and before you know it, you have a bunch of new connections, that you simply wouldn’t have met without online networking.”
There’s no doubt that online networking is here to stay – and with these myths well and truly busted, there’s no reason not to give it a try!