In 1994, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of Business Network International (BNI) and “Father of Modern Networking”, defined networking as “The process of developing and using your contacts to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve your community.”
Nearly two decades later, he updated that definition to read: “The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.”
Networking’s shifting definition – from one that encouraged “using contacts” to now “activating relationships” – provides a perfect example of how people’s attitudes towards networking have changed over time. Today, networking is viewed as a key part of one’s personal and professional life. With so much opportunity available, we constantly seek ways to connect with others, and to share our knowledge and experiences beyond our immediate scope. Now, with the rise in technology, we have more ways than ever before to do so, too.
Networking’s shifting definition – from one that encouraged “using contacts” to now “activating relationships” – provides a perfect example of how people’s attitudes towards networking have changed over time.
Networking’s digital age
Back in the early nineties, when Dr. Misner published his original definition of networking, the most popular way to “get in touch” with people was, well, in person. Face-to-face meetings or, at the least, phone calls were how people typically sealed the deal and built rapport, logging the information of new acquaintances in rolodexes and physical address books.
Now, we find ourselves in networking’s digital age, where “meeting” people means connecting with them on LinkedIn. Social media in general has become a platform to build connections, businesses and personal brands – all likely without ever having to meet those you’re reaching digitally face to face. As of last year, in fact, over 50 million businesses used Facebook Business Pages, while LinkedIn crossed the half billion user mark in 2017.
For networking, the increase in digital tools has essentially given us more ways than ever before to “activate our relationships”, which leaves us to wonder: Have we reached our digital peak?
Where we’re headed next
Certain’s CMO, Kristen Alexander, recently talked about how 2019 would be the year marketers would master the practice of meaningful engagement by taking a step back and really championing the ways in which they communicate with customers. The same can be said for networking. With so many digital channels now available to us to network, this year we’ll start to see more brands and more people reassess how they get in touch with one another and reevaluate which channels lead to building the strongest relationships.
With this, too, will come greater realization of the value face-to-face meetings still hold – especially when coupled with the digital tools we have available to us. Think when you connect with someone on LinkedIn and then set up an in-person coffee meeting with that individual; utilize apps like Meetup in order to find ways to connect with others in person who have similar interests; or when you meet someone at an event and are then able to continue fostering the relationship via email or social channels. In 2019, face-to-face meetings will prove their worth, and will only be made stronger through the digital tools with which we’re able to connect.
Certain Meet – our streamlined meeting management and scheduling app – is our tool to help people network smarter in person. Meet provides a centralized source to manage all of your meetings in one place in order to increase efficiencies and generate more leads. Coupled with our event mobile app, Certain Touchpoint, event attendees can see who’s who at a conference, what sessions they might be interested in attending, as well as what content they’re posting to be equipped with the right knowledge to make an introduction and expand their own “spheres of influence” in 2019. Learn more about how Certain’s event automation solutions can take your events and networking to the next level.