What do you do to network? In what ways does it work or not work?
This is a difficult one for me... I mean I know what I do to network, but it's hard to say what does and doesn't work... I guess it depends on how you look at it. Is your aim to network to sell (marketing), network to socialise within your craft (friends, or status on the 'scene'), or network to learn?
Ok, so let's start and see where we go... I network in a number of ways; firstly I have created special customer forums and groups to share and inspire with my fibre, as well as direct marketing from my website. Then I blog too, that to me is also quite an important part of my networking, because I have both friends here, as well as customers. I also go to shows, both trade and retail to meet suppliers/contacts and sell directly to customers. Finally I network on larger social networking forums (Facebook, etc) again to catch up with friends, craft groups and the odd customer. I guess this can all be seen as Marketing... but there are elements of networking to learn and to socialise too.
Do they work for me? Yes and no... I guess. It really depends on which stance I take to look at it. If I was to consider networking solely to sell, then not everything I do works. The on-line stuff is much harder than face to face. Face to face you get a much better gauge of what sort of mood a customer is in and what they are really after. On-line, hidden behind a computer it's much more difficult to target and get that sale every time. On the other hand I have met many new customers on-line who would never have bought if I hadn't been there to answer a question, or simply get chatting.
Networking to socialise within my craft and/or to learn... Well these mostly are my own craft groups, to be honest... so I guess I got ahead of the game there and tried to create something that filled my particular needs at that time. Do they work? Well yes, Working with Felt, Spinning Web and my Ravelry group have taught me a lot (craft-wise and commercially) and inspired me too. There are a lot of very giving people out there who I owe a lot too.
Things like blogging are networking to socialise for me... I've met a lot of what I call my 'blogging friends' here. They are the people who drop me a line from time to time, for no real reason that to say 'Hi', or to chat. That kind of interaction is a special thing to me and I'm sure to anyone else who works from home alone. The odd blog comment, can be a nice opportunity to interact, where you'd normally had to wait until your 'reality' friends and family come home from work! Occasionally things like blogging can lead to a sale too, which is always unexpected but a pleasure none the less!
This Merry go Around group is also important to me, it's an opportunity to feel part of something once a month and to catch up with peers... fellow craft business owners. This has been an important learning collaboration for me, sometimes a personal learning curve too... a chance to look inward at my business and the what I go through. It's also an oppourtunity to have a bit of fun!
I also collaborate with peers on small projects... mostly these are geared towards advertising. These are much harder to gauge their success in terms of sales, but the importance of what they stand for is for me the starting point to long term success. My latest project is my 'How to Make' site, on which I have started to work with Mariana and Dionne. This I am hoping will become an important part of my idea that learning is as important as doing and if I can help someone achieve their first rolled felt ball, or find out more about a fibre... then that to me is success. Again quite different from face to face interaction, but a starting point to learning a new craft.
So I do lots of things in order to network, with differing results. I like to try new things to network all the time and if I don't see results in the area, or the reason I am there then I leave and look for something else... like a drifting networker!
This post was part of a blog Merry go Around, where I have got together with some friends to talk about a similar subject on the same day... a nice way to meet people!
Alison at Tweed Delights - http://idreamoftweed.blogspot.com/
Mitsy at MindArt - http://artmind-etcetera.blogspot.com/
Kim at Vilt a la Kim - http://viltalakim.blogspot.com/
Sara at Crafts of Texture - http://sarastexturecrafts.blogspot.com/
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations - http://easterya.blogspot.com/
Mariana at Florcita - http://www./florcita.eu/
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent - http://lebarduvent.blogspot.com/
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design - http://lilypangart.blogspot.com/
Wendren at Wren Design - http://thewrendesign.com/
Ruth at Birdland Creations - http://insidetheartisan.blogspot.com/