What is networking? Why is networking important? Why am I writing this and how does it have to do with Too Legit? All of these questions will be answered in the following Facet of Legitimacy.

Let’s say that you need to find a job. You spend hours and hours and come up with a resume that highlights everything you have ever done. You go to the local stationary store and buy some really nice paper to print your resume onto. After this, you drop off your resume to several local businesses that might be interested in employing you. Do you realize how many applications for employment all of these businesses get? Do you understand what your chances of getting employed are? Your chances are slim. A much easier approach lies on the inside. If you know someone on the inside of the company, business, or corporation, they will most likely not have a problem helping you out by recommending you. This would save time, money, and energy on something as simple (but important) as getting a job. And how would you get “on the inside”? Through networking, of course! This is just one example of the wonders good networking and contacts will have.

So what exactly is networking? Networking is the act of meeting new people in a business or social context. Networking is something that everyone experiences pretty much daily. Meeting someone new at the coffee shop in the morning or going to a conference and trading business cards. Networking sets up future interactions and mutually beneficial relationships among two or more people, businesses, or institutions.

Networking comes in many different shapes and forms. For example, networking with potential clients and customers differs from networking with potential resources and manufacturers. Being knowledgeable of the different types of networking and how to network within each will definitely show positive results. In the end, you will have stronger contacts and a better platform with which to run your business off of. In the next few paragraphs, I will go somewhat more in depth into each type. However, due to the broad scope of networking, it would be almost impossible to include all the information available.

Social Networking sites are extremely important when it comes to networking. Personally, social networking sites are the reason for Too Legit’s existence and are what continue to keep it alive. The most popular social networking sites to date are: Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, in terms of overall users and traffic. All 3 are invaluable resources that are key to almost any business’ success in this day and age. The ability to connect and communicate with people all over the world in a matter of seconds has made networking online extremely easy and important.

Be professional and know who you are talking to at all times. It’s the little things that count. Using correct grammar and punctuation could be the deciding factor of whether or not you get that manufacturing account you have always wanted or that interview on a prestigious blog. I have talked with people who use subpar English and they definitely do not impress me. Think about it from the big business’ perspective: You are looking to do professional business with someone and they are talking to you as if you were their old friend from high school. Not cool at all.

Twitter: Twitter is a free, real-time short messaging service that allows people from all over the globe to connect and read about what others are doing. I use Twitter on a daily basis and it allows me to quickly send out information to a large group of people (followers) and lets me see what is going on with them (following). For any established or upcoming business or brand, I HIGHLY recommend you sign up for your own Twitter account today and begin using it. I cannot explain how many contacts I have gained from simple 140 character interactions with people. A more detailed article about the use of twitter and its benefits can be found on the BA blog.

Facebook: I look at Facebook as a MySpace 2.0. It has all the functionality of MySpace, but is cleaner, faster, and overall, more refined. Facebook allows you to create a fan page of your business, brand, cause, etc. and suggest to your friends that fan page. People who aren’t your friends can also “Become a Fan” and follow updates that you make along the way. There are no crazy layouts on Facebook, but you can still include pictures of your products, links to external sites, and a brand bio.

By no means are these the only social networking sites. There are easily hundreds of sites you can join to get your business out there. A couple of them are Digg, Flickr, DeviantArt, and LinkedIn. Each of these has a specific genre or theme to them. For example, Flickr is all about pictures, DeviantArt is about art/design, and LinkedIn is about business. (All of my social networking links can be found at the end of the article.)

Other good online resources include forums and websites directly related to your business. Since my major focus is fashion and clothing, I found sites such as the forum on Hypebeast.com, the forum on Lurk99cents.com, tshirtforums.com, and the talk and resource areas on emptees.com very valuable when it came to meeting new people, discussing my product, and collecting contacts.

Networking in person can be a lot more complicated and difficult than networking online for several different reasons. First, when you are online and are “posting” information, sending e-mails, and interacting with others, you are able to type out what you would like to say, edit that, and then send it. In person, that is not the case. Someone asks you something and you respond right then and there. Being careful about what you say and how you say it is very important because someone’s reaction will be completely different depending on how they hear what you are saying.

In addition, it’s harder to pick up on tone of voice online because, well, you aren’t hearing them say it, you are reading it. Your tone means a lot, so that is something to watch out for. Coming off mad or overly sarcastic can lead to a negative interaction between you and a potential contact.

If you go to an event or conference, be sure to take along some business cards to handout to potential clients and contacts and other information about who you are and what you do. It would be stupid to go to a conference without having anything to leave with someone. You have to understand that people converse with a ton of people at these sorts of events. Without something to trigger their memory when they return home, there is no way they will remember you.

So why is networking important? As Albert Schuster, president of Network in Philadelphia, once said, “Networking offers another avenue to reach vendors, customers, future business partners… It allows you to present yourself and your networking objective in a much more personal way than an advertisement, promotion, or an online resume can.” Without a strong network of friends, family, contacts, and clients, your business will ultimately fail. In order to be successful, you must have help from other people. Meeting new people and connecting with them will definitely help you in the long run.

When talking with someone, whether in person, over the phone, through e-mail, or by any other means of communication, be sure to be human, and more importantly, be yourself. The worst possible thing that you could do is make someone feel as if they are just another number in a vast list of contacts you have sitting on your desk. Creating a personal relationship will enable you to stand out and rise above the noise. In addition, if you put up a false persona of who you really are, the value of your connection will usually decrease. Being genuine is a top notch way to win true friends, valuable resources, and goes hand in hand with the ultimate goal, being successful. Moreover, being genuine is, in large part, one of the main ideals that Too Legit was originally based upon and continues to build upon.

Lastly, I want to make a point of never being lazy. Networking is most effective when you do it constantly and consistently. You need to network when you don’t really have to. Yes, networking is a lot of work and takes time, but once you have successfully made contacts, it is very valuable and rewarding. In addition, make sure you engage people as often as possible. Don’t wait for them to get back to you on a call or e-mail, call them first!

At first, networking wasn’t a large priority for the brand. I would design the shirts, get them printed, and try to sell them. That was it. I thought it was just a simple market. You make something that the consumer wants, and they buy it. That is not totally incorrect, but there is a lot more to it. Since then, I have grown a greater appreciation for the powers of networking. Through the Too Legit Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, I have accumulated many contacts and friendships that have been useful already and will continue to be useful as time passes. Anyone can have a clothing brand and sell a few t-shirts to their friends and the local crowd, but a good brand has a national or even global following. The only way to reach out to the people not directly in contact with you is to network.

Although networking online is not the only way to network, it comprises the bulk of how I network. As the brand is still young, I have not attended any shows to date. However, in the next few months that will change and I will most definitely meet new people and create new contacts.

All in all, I can’t stress it enough that creating mutually beneficial relationships that are meaningful and personal is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of creating and expanding a business whether it be a clothing brand or not. Sign up for social networking sites, actively connect, and be able to describe who you are and what you do to any person that might walk up to you.

I doubt very many people read through this whole article as it is rather lengthy. And even so, I have left out a lot of things and will probably write a Networking Pt. 2 post at some point. This is the first Facet of Legitimacy to date so please leave comments or message me with any feedback you might have. I want to make this series as informational and as helpful as possible. I know that I’m not some big brand, but I do feel that I have a small bit of knowledge that I’d like to share with people

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