Have you ever found yourself at a networking event and thought, “This just isn’t working for me. These are not the right kinds of relationships that will help me grow my business and contribute to my industry. I don’t really feel a connection to these people."
Perhaps it's time to rethink how we build and sustain business relationships. Using social capital can breathe new life into your business, and the way you think about networking.
When we talk about social capital, we’re referring to personal relationships involving shared goals and values that provide tangible benefits. These are relationships that go beyond simple client referrals. When you have social capital, you have a network of people who share your outlook and your goals, and who want to help you build more relationships and a stronger business while you’re doing the same for them.
With your good friends, you do favors for each other and help each other without giving thought to immediate reciprocity. That’s the kind of relationship you build with social capital, but with people who can help you build up your business (and whom you can help in turn!).
Start by taking advantage of your social media outlets. Share your knowledge on your posts and blog, presenting yourself as a trusted advisor who encourages and mentors others in your field. Ask smart questions of other industry leaders and develop a reciprocal conversation online. The more you interact, the stronger your relationships will become, and the more people will sit up and take notice of you and what you have to offer.
Next, join groups and meetups, both online and in person, that interest you personally, not just in business-related ways. When you expand your social circles, you have more opportunity to meet like-minded people who will eventually form your social capital. You don’t have to become best friends with everyone you meet, but even a casual relationship can lead to great benefits. The woman in your running club could be a real estate investor, the man in your pottery class could work in an architectural firm, and the neighbor you chat with as you are both planting your peonies might know a wonderful graphic designer she could introduce you to. You never know where opportunity will arise. Any time you get out and get involved in your community, you’re creating social capital and becoming part of other people’s developing networks.
It’s important to look at these relationships for more than what you can get out of them. You’re looking to meet others who share your goals and values — people you would consider friends. Because friends support and help one another. Friends jump in when they see a speedbump approaching and offer advice and assistance. Friends can be reliable, trusted resources that you turn to when you’re looking for a team to tackle a project or just to support one another in the community.
You could look at social capital as a sort of “natural networking.” You develop a true personal relationship with people who end up being able to contribute to your business success, and whose businesses you help to promote.