Social Media Strategy

How to Use Networking 3.0 to Make New Connections

Networking 3.0

badge-guest-post-FLATTERThe word “networking” has become laden with negative associations. It’s no wonder considering some of the tactics people use, from the time-wasting to the downright obnoxious.

Yet we know there is immense value in networking. We just need to redefine it. The world has changed dramatically, and networking needs to catch up.

Many people still approach networking from a, “What can you do for me?” perspective. Call it Networking 1.0.

Then there’s the more evolved form of networking–Networking 2.0–which espouses asking “What can I do for you?”…of someone you’ve just met. Both approaches, as we all know by now, are fraught with pitfalls.

Enter Networking 3.0.

Rather than networking to directly benefit yourself (1.0), or a total stranger (2.0), the idea here is to network solely for the benefit of your best existing clients and colleagues.

In theory, it’s all about what you can do for them, and how you can add more value to your relationships with them. In practice, it involves finding prospective clients for the people in your existing network and connecting them with remarkable people. In essence, you’re becoming a part of their business development team, and a valuable resource for just about anything.

It’s a lot easier than it sounds.

Let’s look at how this works in the context of that most time-honored ritual – the traditional networking event.

I would introduce myself as a financial advisor (which I am), throw a few perfunctory pleasantries into the conversation, and likely get to the inevitable, “I don’t need a financial advisor right now, because a) I already have one, b) <insert random change of subject>, or c) I’m saving my money to buy a house.

All three are dead ends, right?

Not at all. That last one is gold. Having a real estate agent in my network, I can then say, “I have a great real estate agent I can recommend,” and thus potentially add value in several ways:

  1. I could make a connection for someone in my network (client or otherwise), which would at the very least reinforce the value I bring to our relationship.
  2. If the real estate agent I recommended gets a new client, I was the catalyst. If the house-hunter ends up buying her dream house, I helped make that happen.
  3. The sooner she buys the house, the sooner she’ll be in a position to start investing her money (hopefully with me), since I helped pave the way to that house.

This type of interaction is low-risk and potentially very high-reward.

Unlike the 2.0 scenario, you are not referring someone you just met to one of your best clients. In fact, it’s just the opposite: You are flipping the paradigm and referring your client. Even if the referral doesn’t pan out, your client will appreciate the thought. If it does, you will have sent some new business your client’s way, and added real value.

Change Your Approach

Doing this requires a good store of information. You can start compiling one by reaching out to select clients to learn more about their businesses and their personal lives. Initially, I focused on the clients whose businesses I believed I could most effectively identify opportunities for. I’d encourage you to do the same.

While I obviously knew what my clients did for a living, I did not necessarily know how to identify resources, opportunities, or connections for them. What you see on a business card, website or incorporation documents does not tell a business’s full story. So, the purpose of these initial conversations is to get information that you can use to figure out ways to add value for them.

The most effective way to tease this information out is to better understand their “triggering events”; that is, events that are not related to their business in an obvious way, but that create circumstances in which they might be able to provide a solution.

For me, an example of a triggering event would be someone having a baby. People tend to become more motivated about and concerned with financial planning when they have a child–and I’m a financial advisor. The baby opens the door.

Going through this exercise with your clients will make you look like a hero, even if nothing else comes out of the meeting, because you will have unlocked deeper understanding and better communication. They need to understand that while you know they are a consultant or a government contractor, you aren’t necessarily sure what that means in terms of identifying potential clients for them. Here are some questions you can ask to get greater clarity:

  • What is the role of the person who typically hires you?
  • What problem(s) are they primarily looking to solve that you can help with?
  • What is the size (employees and revenue) of your ideal client?
  • What are some of their triggering events?

There are many others, but this should get you started.

Networking 3.0 opportunities present themselves online all the time. Finding them can simply be a matter of increasing your awareness of the concerns that people express on social platforms every day.

Once you know the key triggers that can lead to potential new business for your clients, create a list on Twitter and set up Google Alerts for these keywords. You’ll be amazed how often people have a problem that you can help solve by simply making a suggestion or an introduction. And you’ll be even more amazed at how much people appreciate it when someone helps them with no personal agenda in their back pocket.

It’s similar in practice to the example of @HiltonSuggests, which Jay shares in Youtility, except in this case you go about it with the intention of advocating for your clients and network.

Do you proactively represent your best clients and professional relationships online? I’d love to hear what’s working for you.

Article Name
How to Use Networking 3.0 to Make New Connections
It's time to move from the, "what can you do for me?" mentality and into a new era of useful networking that can help your clients, your relationships, and ultimately, yourself.
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  1. PeterJ42 says

    Aaaagh. I was once in BNI, the networking group which used this share approach, and it was excruciating – you couldn’t get away from people.

    But knowledge networking is a different story. We have been brought up to think we know it all and don’t need help. That is the publishing mindset – I’m the expert and I’m going to tell everyone.

    If you start out, however, by saying I know some of it and I’m looking to network with people who can either add ideas or add a different lens to see things through, then it could be fun. Like collaborating on a project.

  2. says

    Thanks Peter. If you read this article and thought of BNI, then I missed the mark. BNI, which seems to work for some people, would fall under 2.0. I am not suggesting you offer up your clients/network to other professionals you don’t know that well, but rather the opposite.

    • Kris Bradley says

      I agree, Networking 3.0 is on a different planet from a BNI, which I think is primitive networking. What you are trying to focus on was very well communicated when you wrote ‘network solely for the benefit of your best existing clients and colleagues.’

  3. Philippe MAILLE says

    Good one!
    “back to the future” with the fundamentals of CRM & Marketing earlier in 1998

  4. Kris Bradley says

    Great job explaining the importance of this kind of unique ‘you first’ networking. The last couple of years I have been networking exactly as you describe and I am living proof that is very difficult, but also very rewarding. If I could go to my next networking event and everybody would be asking these questions instead of having a hidden agenda, it would be the best networking event I would have ever been too.

    • says

      Thanks Kris! The challenge, of course, is most of the players at networking events are not there for the same reasons as you. I stopped going to them almost entirely in favor of curating my own 20-25 person “un-networking group”.

  5. Vanessa Sain-Dieguez says

    So well written and so true! Some of my best connections are people that took the time to understand what I do, my challenges, and opportunities and sought out ways to help – of course over many years which really increases the value. Very, very good piece Derek.

    • says

      Thanks Vanessa! The cool thing is that if you get good at clarifying the triggering events that lead to opportunities for you, it becomes much easier to get them out of your clients (and that exercise with them is really valuable in and of itself).

  6. says

    I like this and I see it is not BNI.

    I was at a relaxed lunch the other day with colleagues. Although not a techie I have come to understand enough about a colleague’s (colleague A) business’s very advanced tech work to be admiring of what they are doing and pleased to tell people about it. That colleague was at the lunch. Speaking with another colleague (colleague B) there and getting an update about his activity and seeing a potential fit with what colleague A’s company is doing, I waxed enthusiastic about that. The upshot is that A & B are going to connect.

    But the key point of relevance to your post is that I had taken some trouble to explain to colleague A over a couple of coffee get togethers what I do and where my focus is and have now discovered that, unbeknownst to me at the time, while I was promoting his interests the other day over lunch, he was promoting me to another person at the lunch and telling him it was in his interest to contact me!. No orchestration, no prior understanding, no commissions.

    In both cases we knew enough about what the other was doing and had enough respect to see possible connections and speak confidently about it.

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