I'm working on a dinner meeting on Social Networking for the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest - established as a chapter of MIT Enterprise Forum to support and promote high-tech entrepreneurship. It is one of 23 worldwide chapters. As we hone down to the real issues on this topic, many interesting things have come up.
I have begun to use LinkedIn on a more regular basis now - which has been fun. If you are using a social networking software (LinkedIn or other) - how has it been working for you?
Here's what I do: I attend some sort of event or networking meeting. Always, I make an effort to find two or three key people I want to meet, for a variety of reasons. (note: these reasons don't have to be work-related). Often I don't bring business cards (yes, I know - a sin in most networking circles) I just don't need to hand my card out to everyone - rather I want key "connectors" and influencers to know who I am and what I can do. Also, I am branded better in the local marketplace now than I was a few years back. I still believe it is important to have good collateral and business cards - just don't throw them around! Be very selective. Remember, you can easily do a mail follow up, which makes a second impression on someone you met - much better than handing something to someone when they don't particuarly wnat it.
When I am speaking at an event, I have a small "keeper" type of a handout - with valuable tips or follow up from the presentation - sometimes laminated - and always with all of my contact information.
Once I'm back in the office, I see who is on LinkedIn. Since there are millions of members, sometimes I succeed - and get more background on the person, plus I see who I am liked to them through, if anyone.
The other thing that is quicker to do is keword searches in LinkedIn for people in my industry for collaboration, or potential alliance partners or clients. I'm not sure how other social networking software works - but this is a great tool I wish I had access to years ago as a seller in the corporate marketplace. Since LinkedIn has a new Business Account service I'll be trying out and posting on later. If you do some sort of in-person and virtual blend of networking, please comment on how you do it - it will help others in this fairly new world of much improved access to others.