Those who think that networking is a waste of time, specifically “social” networking are way off the mark. In fact, social networking (aka: online networking) has grown exponentially over just the last couple of years alone.
With social networking sites such as Face book, Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr, Zimbio and more, there is a plethora of avenues to explore when it comes to finding others within your niche. Because every niche is different and specifically geared towards something, the type of social network that you will want to join will vary. For example, just because Twitter and Face book are the largest social networking sites on the Internet right now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you will gain a huge advantage by creating profiles for your business here.
Research, Research. Research. Find out what sites people within your niche are hanging out on the most. For example, for one person I know who runs a gadget website for the technologically savvy, he finds that most of his success comes from using a networking socially site called Redditt. However, for someone like me who wants to make professional business connections, I might choose to use LinkedIn. It just depends on what you are looking for. Another example of social networking in use can be seen in my aunt. She uses a local meet up networking socially site so that she can find various activities to include herself in during the week and on the weekends. From free dance lessons to ‘Over 50 singles nights out', there is no shortage of things to do for her.
Networking is also beneficial both online and off because it can mean the difference between landing a job versus not. For example, though many people might have the credentials on paper, it is still a somewhat unfortunate fact that those who land the dream jobs do so not because of their actual qualifications so to speak. Rather, they get the job because of who they have networked with in the past- who they know. Someone who has already met with and knows the personality of one person might choose that person over the person on paper that they have never met.
In recent years with the advance of online networking socially, there have been some who have suggested that with this progression of online networking, there has been a inverse relationship or regression away from actual face-to-face communication. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, social netting, if anything, has led to the meet and greet of more people than anything else. From online webinars to Tweets about where meet up groups are going to be meeting up, you can now rearrange your schedule and plan ahead with social networking. For example, someone like me may see a tweet about a local meet up in my area related to social networking. I can then respond to that Tweet with an RSVP saying that I will attend and simply copy down the location of where the meet up will be taking place. It's that easy. . . and that effective.