Members of the c-suite are skipping the in-person meet-and-greet in favor of networking online, a new survey shows. Forty-five percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed for a Robert Half Management Resources survey say they now prefer to cultivate business relationships via social networking. only 25 percent of CFOs still favor in-person networking at events, meetings and conferences. The majority of respondents (60 percent) said their primary purpose for networking is to grow business.
CFOs were asked, "How do you prefer to network professionally?" Their responses:
- Networking online, 45%
- Attending professional events/meetings/conferences, 25%
- Email correspondence, 22%
- None/don't network, 7%
- Other/don't know, 1%
CFOs were also asked, "What is the primary purpose of your professional networking activities?" Their responses:
- Grow business, 60%
- Keep up with industry news and developments, 20%
- Find a new job, 10%
- Recruit new talent, 7%
- Other/don't know, 3%
Paul McDonald, a senior executive director with Robert Half, noted that while online networking can be effective in reaching a large number of contacts, it shouldn't replace more traditional approaches. "Having regular conversations remains essential for developing meaningful professional relationships, particularly for business development and hiring purposes," he said. "Face-to-face meetings can build rapport in a way that electronic communication cannot. Most people still want some personal familiarity before doing business with someone or making a referral."
Research shows that for most executives, professional networking is geared toward developing business leads (60 percent), rather than for pursuits like finding a job (10 percent) or recruiting talent (7 percent).
Robert Half Management Resources offers three tips to get the most from professional networking activities.
- Don't wait until you need something. If you reach out to your network only when you need help, you'll weaken your ties. Be visible and keep in touch on a regular basis by commenting on your contacts' updates, offering assistance and sharing news items.
- Strike the right balance. Meeting in person takes more time and effort than connecting online but can deliver much more value over the long term. Develop relationships through one-on-one meetings and referrals. You can then stay in touch with contacts online or by email to keep the lines of communication open.
- Stay in the know. Monitor social media to keep current on industry developments and your network's reaction to them. The information you gather can give you valuable business insight.