In today’s hyper-connected digital world, it’s easy to assume that social networking platforms are all you need. But if you’re looking for connections that go deeper than the occasional “like,” social media alone isn’t enough. This week, our contributors focus on how to build a network of relationships that will truly support your business and your goals. ~ Judy Herrmann, editor
[by Gail Mooney]
The best way to build a professional network is to approach it organically. Most of us have a variety of networks in our life, made up of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or people we are connected with by common interest. But for some reason, many of us draw a line between our business and personal relationships instead of bridging those connections, for mutual benefit.
Over my lifetime, I’ve made connections with an eclectic array of people-not just with people who are inside my industry, but with people I’ve shared a variety of experiences. Some examples of my own networks:
Social Networks: A few years ago, I built an audience online, by blogging about my journey around the world, with my daughter Erin, creating a feature length documentary film. I didn’t know at the time, that this following would later help us fund the postproduction of our film through Kickstarter.
I also belong to several LinkedIn Discussion Groups where people share information. For example: I do work in the corporate “social responsibility” sector and I‘ve made several connections through an online discussion group that have led to non-virtual relationships.
Trade Associations and other Groups – I am a member of the ASMP and the SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) an association of photographers and writers,specifically related to the travel industry. The relationships I have formed through these two groups have been invaluable to my business. As I find myself working on more and more collaborative jobs, I draw upon my colleagues when I need to form a team for an assignment.
Events/Conferences – I attend a lot of conferences. While I do enjoy the ease of online learning, in person conferences offer the extra added value of interaction and networking. In particular, I try not to miss PPE (Photo Plus Expo) held in NYC in late fall and the NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters), held in Las Vegas in April. NAB includes several mini-conferences such as Post Production World and the annual SuperMeet where producers, shooters and editors come together.
Volunteering –When I want to learn more about a particular craft or skill set, or meet people who are involved in a particular area of my industry, I will volunteer at conferences that will connect me with the right people. For example, by volunteering at events organized by the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project), I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been a great way to meet other filmmakers.
I also give back – I’m on the photographer advisory boards of YPA (Young Photographer Alliance) as well as my alma mater Brooks Institute. I’m also on the board of my local public access TV station. This keeps me in touch with “emerging photographers” as well as what’s happening in my own community.
Ultimately, I try to network with a variety of people from different backgrounds and personality types. I hang with the idealists that I can dream with, and the realists that keep me in check. And the visionaries that are willing to help me come up with a plan to fulfill my dreams – instead of trying to talk me out of them. The bottom line is that life is about relationships and connections. It’s why I became a photographer… I wanted access to a life that would be enriched by an amazing array of people who were a part of it.
Gail Mooney is Chair of the National Board of ASMP. She is a partner of Kelly/Mooney Productions.
[by Lynn Kyle]
My grandfather was a farmer. On days when he was not in the field, he would drive into town to go to the local coffee shop.
Parking himself on the bar stool next to the other farmers, he’d talk over current agricultural issues and the business of farming. From the newest fertilizer to changes in insurance rates, this was where he listened and shared experiences, frustrations and successes. These conversations with fellow farmers were invaluable to his business.
So how do we get back to basics, back to the art of conversation?
These days we have amazing resources available to us. Social networking, organizations, seminars and events all need to be a part of your business model to better your business and to continue to keep up with our ever-changing industry.
Social networking is a great tool to start the conversation. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — these are all good ways to connect and show people your personal side. Tailor social networking to your style and personality, and only participate in the networks you are interested in (and that you will keep updated). My rule of thumb is, if you are not excited about what you are posting, then no one else will be either. Explore what works for you, and conversation will follow.
LinkedIn Group discussions are another great way to connect with industry colleagues. You’ll not only find yourself talking to peers, but also to potential clients. Check out the group directory search and jump in!
Social media is great, but how do we get to the real conversations? The ones you walk away from saying: “wow that was super helpful.”
The answer is industry events, seminars, and organizations. Join your local ASMP chapter and attend one of their industry meet and greets. Check out your local Apple store for seminars on retouching and presentations from photographers and production people. Rental houses even sometimes have demonstrations on the latest and greatest camera gear. Sit in on a demo and learn something while you’re networking!
Once connected with people in your industry as friends and colleagues, they become part of your support team. You can reach out and ask advice on more specific things such as recommendations for crew members in certain cities, thoughts on fees to charge for a unique project, where to locate special rigging equipment, or even where to obtain a family of llamas.
The further you dive into networking, the more you will get out of it. Being a part of the community will give you the extra edge and support you need. So grab a cup of coffee, sit down wherever you are, and have a great chat with a colleague today!
Lynn Kyle brings a unique combination of agency and production experience to her role of creative consultant at Agency Access. She’s intimately familiar with the business end of commercial photography and illustration and has, over the last two decades, worked with high-profile artists as an Art Buyer, Producer and Artist Rep at top firms including Leo Burnett Chicago.
[by Paul Oemig]
Cocktail parties. Crowded conferences. Brief business card exchanges — the tenets of traditional networking. While all those things certainly have their place, they are seldom a good method by which to build a solid network.
Unfortunately, in such environments there is rarely time to form relationships in earnest and of those in attendance, mentalities akin to the hunter are sometimes seen. Like fishermen casting nets, you may even witness some individuals impersonally rushing to collect as many contacts as possible or egotistically boasting only of their own accomplishments in an imprudent effort to be seen as desirable to work with.
But the intent of meeting someone should not be to simply pass off a job title. To build a strong network, one full of people who you know, trust, care about, and collaborate with, it is essential to both listen and share something worthwhile. As Scott Belsky of Behance put it: “Sharing is the new networking.”
The truth is, if you make great things and you have the guts to share them, and share the great things other people are making, great people will find you. In my experience, the best people, people I have later worked with, have been individuals I met while making things together — working on art councils and community volunteer projects. And when you find those individuals, share with each other meaningful things — what inspires you, your aspirations, and the things you’ve learned along the way.
Where do you share? Anywhere. Over coffee. Over drinks. In-person. Online. Sitting next to a stranger. It’s not the forum that matters, it’s the conversation that’s important.