Networking by Association and Online

December 26, 2009 Columns, Working Your Creative Enterprise

By Atim Annette Oton

Article was written in 2007

An intangible asset in a business plan is networking. It is one of the ways to promote and grow a business. It gives you an additional hand or what I call a “circle of influence,” thus expanding your Roledex. Joining business associations and organizations is a great recommendation for any business; a strategic way to build relationships and add business credibility.

The two organizations I belong to –  the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (http://www.ibrooklyn.com) and NYC and Co. (http://www.nycvisit.com) — build relationships and give my business credibility. They are a good $700 investment. I joined the chamber because my business is local — Brooklyn. It’s been a big help as I get assistance and advice too. One of the best chambers in New York City, it provides tons of workshops and events that aid in building relationships, add to marketing my company and provide business information.

The other organization, NYC and Co., I joined for its focus on NYC tourism and the world. NYC and Co. has a global reach and attitude. They represent NYC and the globe — and that is important for my global retail business. Their marketing and branding helps grow my business. It is a matter of association. I recall when I participated in the American Express promotion and a customer received a brochure listing my store. She was most impressed seeing my company listed there. It is a small gesture, but it helps.

Trade associations are also a great networking resource. They hold events, offer industry-specific education and message boards online, and provide an opportunity for members to list their businesses on their website. My advice: whatever your business is, join the local chamber and organizations that can assist you in other ways to grow your business through networking.

To take business networking out of the traditional box and to the next level — the cyber world — and to “expand your business horizons,” I will like to introduce 6 new words for your daily consumption: Yahoogroups (http://www.yahoogroups.com), MySpace (http://www.myspace.com), Meetup (http://www.Meetup.com) Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com), FastPitch Networking (http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com) and DirectMatches (http://www.directmatches.com).

Many will have heard about the first two: Yahoogroups is now “old school.” I started my virtual life here and continue to use it to promote my business. MySpace is “new school” and all the rage, and I am barely using it as I should. They are the two social networking sites to be part of, essentially for attracting some customers and making connections. The third, Meetup, is quietly crafting a group of people who like face-to-face interaction. I use it to meet with Black Brooklyn Professionals, a group I run.

The last three, Linkedin, FastPitch Networking and DirectMatches, are more for businesses, fee-based and really offer a different way of negotiating networking. I just started on Linkedin and have begun to look at all its options. I am still undecided about paying the monthly fees. With 98 contacts at FastPtich Networking, I am more in tuned with this site, as it is more my speed and I earn points when I link to others. My best experience at FastPitch has been bartering services for items I needed to further promote my company.

I recently started on Linkedin and I am still learning its realms, but I have been able to locate other publishers and editors to talk with. Sometimes networking is just about sharing. When it comes to networking, DirectMatches is more like an MLM business site. With just 35 contacts in a week, I joined the site to look for expanding a portion of my business globally and locally. Whatever your options and ways to build your business, online networking is another choice. Find me online at any of these sites by locating me via keywords – Calabar Imports and Calabar Magazine. Let’s network today and just link to me while you are at it.

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