Building your network is an exercise in finding the people whom you click with. Social media has been an incredibly useful tool for me, so let’s talk about using it to build a strong and effective network. First, you will need to think about being someone that people want to connect with. It’s of vital importance to establish your online presence, and to make it genuine. This is not limited to the look of your work. Consider how you are presenting yourself to the world. Are your Facebook posts positive or negative? Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? If you have a blog, is it current and interesting?
Networking, be it locally or internationally, is all about connecting. People recognize fake, so it has to be done with honest intent. Using social media, I start by putting what I love out into the world and, at the same time, searching for those with similar interests. Using the many outlets available (Facebook, Instagram, etc), I begin to build a positive foundation upon which a friendship can grow. This includes potential consumers, directors, agencies and artists- the sky is the limit!
As much as I love to invite someone out and get to know them over a cup of coffee or lunch, I keep in mind that we are in the age of the virtually established relationships. While folks may not have room in their schedule for a meeting, they always appreciate a thoughtful email or an encouraging comment. Take a real interest in people for who they are, not just for their job title.
When reaching out, don’t just look for future clients. Some of my best friendships have been built with other photographers! I am always looking for people to collaborate with, to bounce ideas off of, and to lean on during times of struggle. It is easy to dismiss others in your field as competition, but you could be missing out on some of your strongest allies. Reach out to your industry peers- you may be surprised at how well you connect.
After establishing a presence with someone you can move communications to emails and then after some time, request a meeting. Keep it casual and quick. Don’t go in expecting them to look at your book and tell you how awesome you are. Be a fountain, not a drain- what can you offer that will help them? Research their company, their cause and, to some extent, their careers and personalities. Rather than going in with the mindset of “how can this get me to where I want to go,” approach your meetings with the intent of “How may I help you to find success with what you’re doing?”
In short, keep your motives authentic and your attitude pleasant. If you pour into your networking efforts honesty, consideration and positivity, that is just what you will receive in return!