Forget the idea that networking is a job-hunting tool. Networking is the job hunt. But networking is not just passing out your business card and e-mailing your friends’ friend. Networking is making yourself buzz-worthy so people want to be connected with you.
This is not the old networking that celebrated extroverts and crushed introverts. Building buzz celebrates the diligent information broker and crushes the relentless self-promoter. Build buzz for yourself by processing information in new ways and connecting people and ideas in ways that are interesting and provide new experiences.
Here are four things to remember when you want to build buzz:
1. Be known for good work.
This is the most powerful tool in your career. Even if you start with no reputation and no connections, it’s not unrealistic to get known for doing outstanding work.
“I want to build a reputation as someone who comes up with interesting things and tries to be useful,” Weekly said. “I use my reputation as a launch platform for my ideas.”
His current company is PBWiki, which offers a service that gives people a simple way to collaborate online, in a wiki, for example.When he announced the company he got 1,000 customers on the first day, just from being mentioned on those blogs.
2. Contribute to the community.
For Weekly, building buzz is not a single project, but an ongoing commitment to giving quality work to a larger community. And this should be how you think about yourself, as well.
The days of just pushing plain old information out to an audience are ending. Stories, not raw facts, are what people can relate to. “A great way to connect with people is by way of stories,” says Zemack. “When you build experiences or create a story around a something, then it becomes more engaging and personal.”
You can do this many ways but maybe the easiest is to add your comments to blogs. This is a way to broker information in a useful way, sort of like inviting yourself to a party, but it’s OK to do so, as long as you make relevant contributions.
Also, give away good information. There is so much information available that hoarding it will get you nowhere. People will just look elsewhere to get ideas. Instead, share as much as you can with the community, to build your reputation into what you’d like to be known for. “Information is not the main ingredient. It’s knowing how to enact it,” says BL Ochman, author of The What’s Next Blog.
3. Shape your own destiny.
How people see you online matters. For example, most young people would not date someone before Googling them, and we do this kind of electronic research routinely before buying products and services as well. Recruiters also use the Internet to identify job candidates rather than sift through piles of resumes. So you need to manage your online identity to make sure people see you as the person you want to be.
Peter Himler is author of The Flack and founder of Flatiron Communications in New York. His decades of experience in the public relations and communications field includes serving as spokesman for major companies, chairing organizations and giving lectures. He is all over Google, but had little control over what Google served up. By blogging, Himler shapes his online image — his “digital footprint” — because his blog now comes up first when you Google his name.
You can also take control of what people see by removing the bad stuff. There are no guarantees, of course, but if you want to clean up your online identity, ReputationDefender has proprietary resources for both finding the dirt and cleaning it up.
4. Think in terms of experience and get off the sofa.
The more types of meaningful connections you can make with an audience, the more effective the buzz will be. “The best way to generate buzz about what you do is to combine an offline and online experience,” says Zemack.
Advertising industry veteran Steve Hall, editor of Adrants, rattles off many fun examples of effective buzz-generating tactics that do not include a computer. For example, Canon paid couples to carry around its new product and ask passersby to take their pictures. That person who took the picture inadvertently learned how to use the camera. And, if things went as planned, the unsuspecting photographer would also hear a few benefits of using the camera: “We just love the zoom lens, could you use that, please?”
This is an experience you could never have online. (Though today the ethics of this particular promotion seem flawed.)
Also, just like people go to blogs to learn something and have a fun engagement with a community, people like to do the same thing offline. Throwing a party is one of the oldest tools in the box for building buzz, and it still works.
Zemack has made a name for herself, and her communications firm, by throwing ice cream parties and chocolate-tasting parties. The exotic flavors described by well-versed wait staff and perfectly complimentary hipster circles mingling over tasty cones allows people to learn something new, and to make new introductions — just the kinds of experiences Zemack wants a reputation for creating.