Online networking options grow in popularity

The best entrepreneurial training I ever received was working at my uncle’s service station when I was a teenager in Lower West Pubnico.

It was a gathering site for people, mostly fishermen, and the conversation was usually pretty lively.

My uncle had a joke: if the place ever caught fire, the headline in the paper would read Service Station Burns Down — 200 Men Left Homeless.

These people were participating in what we would now call “networking events,” where they shared best practices, statistics and marketing tactics. They were, and still are, the ultimate entrepreneurs.

Lots of politics was also discussed, and many were veterans of the Second World War, talking about a life I have never known but events that were very fresh in their minds.

One thing that amazed me was how open and helpful they were with one another, being, after all, competitors. But theirs was a mentality of abundance, and as the saying goes, a high tide raises all boats.

Later in life, I would find myself on panels and at networking events with my competitors, and sharing ideas like we were best friends. And I would think back about how similar it was to those days around the service station stove.

I understand that now the Dennis Point Cafe & Restaurant in Lower West Pubnico is the new networking venue, and I even hear that my column gets reviewed there on a monthly basis.

Here in Halifax, I have noticed of late that some networking events are starting to suffer from lack of attendance, and many who do attend are nearing retirement.

I have been asking people why they think that is, and an answer I often receive is that people prefer to do their networking online. I must admit I am getting to be a bit of an online junkie myself, with accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Of those, I find LinkedIn to be the better tool for business connections. When I first joined, my connections were mostly technical people, but over the years, it has gained popularity across many sectors. The discussions are always business in nature, and one thing I particularly like is their weekly review of good articles.

Facebook is to personal what LinkedIn is to business. It keeps a lot of people in touch with one another, and for many, it has replaced email as the main way of communicating — that and texting.

I recently just got involved with Flickr, which is primarily a photo-sharing facility. People can belong to different groups and can organize their photos in sets, each with its own theme.

I recently attended a high school reunion and decided to form a Flickr group to accumulate the many pictures that were taken. I advertised it via email and Facebook, and within a day had accumulated many members — such is the power of social media.

Twitter is another thing altogether.

Basically, you follow people and people follow you, and everybody sends out short messages, called tweets, that all their followers receive. It seems to be getting traction among famous people, whose fans are followers, and TV personalities such as sports reporters. Some people tell me that Twitter is how they keep up with current events.

These tools and others like them are being used in business more and more. Those who do it well reap the benefits, and there are experts in the field that keep up with best practices.

I tweet, therefore I am, but I still like the good old-fashioned, face-to-face networking.

I recently joined the local Certified Management Consulting chapter and attended my first networking event. We spent two very pleasant hours at Obladee wine bar discussing management consulting and politics over glasses of deep-bodied Italian red.

Let’s see you do that on Twitter

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