The digital revolution and the move towards an always-on life has ensured that people are more connected than ever, both personally as well as professionally.
Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of ManpowerGroup South Africa, states that this has changed the way people communicate, the way businesses operate and plan, and even the way consumers react to brands and purchase products.
“In short, the digital life has transformed our personal and business lives. Both businesses and people have had to adapt to a more technologically advanced way of life in order to avoid becoming irrelevant. One such element of business that has undergone a change through digital transformation is networking.”
While networking remains an integral part of career and business growth, the digital transformation has meant that a large portion of networking is now carried out online; primarily through platforms such as LinkedIn and GooglePlus.
Networking represents an opportunity for individuals to interact, discuss ideas and exchange information. This can have many benefits, such as assisting in the development of innovative products or services, assisting in career growth for individuals, in the development of entrepreneurship, and in the overall growth of businesses. The benefits of networking can be divided into various categories: career development, increased confidence, and leveraging on opportunities.

Social media for career and business development
Even though Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter weren’t originally designed for business use, one cannot deny the vast number of businesses and individuals using these platforms for marketing and communication purposes. Businesses and brands are expected to have an active online presence.
Additionally, job seekers and freelance workers are expected to have a strong online presence, which is often referenced by potential employers and clients, especially on LinkedIn.
“In the evolving business landscape, the digital aspect of business is becoming more and more important across all sectors. Having a strong online presence is important. Make sure your LinkedIn page is up to date. If you have opinions or experiences on any of the latest trends, challenges, happenings or technologies in your industry — write a post or blog about it. Displaying your knowledge and interest in your chosen field will be to your definite advantage,” explains van den Barselaar.

Increased confidence
For individuals, regularly networking and sharing information with familiar and non-familiar people within the same sector helps increase confidence. This is an important attribute in the modern business environment, as both individual career growth and business growth is dependent on interacting with people and making lasting connections.
For businesses, communicating with customers and partners through networking platforms provides a platform for communication, which is highly valued by modern consumers. It also presents a cheap and easy way for businesses to share news and announcements.
“Being able to communicate online and in person are two very different things, but both are important for career growth. Networking provides the opportunity for individuals to do both — through online discussions and physical events and meet-ups,” van den Barselaar explains.

Opportunities through gained connections
Businesses and individuals’ need to remember that they are not just gaining exposure to those they network with but are building connections too. The power of networking thus lies in the relationships between people and businesses, and harnessing those relationships to facilitate relevant information exchange in order to act upon competitive opportunities present within the market place.
“One of the most positive aspects of social media is that is provides an accessible platform for sharing information. Taking part in online discussions, and using online platforms to learn about new industry events means individuals will be able to stay up to date with the latest developments in their industry, and share ideas, knowledge and experiences with other industry players. This is important for career growth and experience,” says van den Barselaar.
“While the face of networking may have changed, its importance cannot be denied. As the business landscape continues to change, making connections, sharing information and having a strong online presence may well become even more important than ever. However, the value of creating long-term relationships with business connections must not be underestimated, despite the digital disruption currently taking over our lives,” concludes van den Barselaar.