Businesses tiny and titanic depend on their IT teams for survival. This department gets hands on with digital assets, information security, and day to day management of the technologies modern day enterprises thrive on. IT professionals can benefit from exchanging ideas with like-minded people, and because their roles are so specialized, communities outside of the company are often the best places to mingle.
Networking in a group setting provides an opportunity to make new connections, showcase your expertise, and even drum up additional business. On the prowl for worthwhile IT groups? Consider having your community managers comb the following channels:
We all know Twitter is a phenomenal business tool. Still, I didn’t realize the true depth of its potential until recently discovering a quirky concept called Twitter Chats. These chat sessions offer a convenient way to learn, expand your reach, and connect with industry peers. Snuffing out worthwhile chats can be a chore, but luckily there are resources at your disposal designed to simplify the process. Gnosis Media is one of several sites that publishes a list of Twitter Chats that can be sorted by alphabet, subject, and day of the week.
LinkedIn Groups can help you keep up with the latest industry trends, connect with the right people, and establish your brand as a thought leader in the MSP space. A business-focused platform, the community is home to well over 10,000 groups that reflect the diversity of today’s IT field. Networking, hardware, and security are just some of the topics driving lively discussions between members. Beyond name recognition, LinkedIn Groups are backed by an attractive slate of features that put building an identity, obtaining critical insights, and sharing your expertise into focus.
Online IT Communities
Since 1998, ITToolbox has been a place techies could rely on to share knowledge and learn the ABCs of IT. This multi-layered platform offers a little of everything, including blogs and groups that discuss topics ranging from big data and web design to cloud computing and networking. ITToolbox hosts discussions by some of the most prominent names in IT. Dell Software, Juniper Networks, and Microsoft are among the site’s elite membership. Online communities such as this make it easy for anyone in IT to publish, share, and collaborate on meaningful projects.
Local Business Resources
Some of the best resources may be local jewels lying right beneath your nose. Your local business council is a great place to start. Though still devoted to small business growth and creating jobs, the local councils have come a long way over the years. The resources are better and the benefits of becoming a member are more attractive than ever. Offering affordable membership programs and expert insights you can’t put a price on, the road to IT channel success could run through a local business resource.
Not all nonprofit groups cater exclusively to not for profit organizations. For example, Non Profit Technology Network (NTEN) opens it doors to nonprofits as well as commercial companies, consultants, and other technology professionals looking for an extensive networking experience. Members receive learning tools, training, and all the support needed to excel in the competitive IT arena. NTEN is based out of Portland, but groups like this are sprinkled in regions throughout the nation.
You can find a professional association for just about any area, and the IT field is no exception. Professional associations like the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) offer an opportunity to grow your network, expand your knowledge, and get on the path to reaching your full potential. These groups are available in the form of regional, state, and national chapters that offer membership opportunities for those looking to learn and those looking to mentor as well. More than any other group resource on our list, professional associations are ideal for sharpening the skills of individual IT pros.
Mastering the Group Mingle
Now that you know where to look for IT groups, let’s focus on how to make the most of those community experiences.
Play Your Part
Of course it helps to be a born go-getter with gumption by the buckets, but if you’re planning to link up with a group and play the role of wall flower, you might as well stay home. Don’t even come to the party. Sure, you can catch a few nuggets by simply sitting back and listening. However, you’ll get the whole value meal experience by participating and lending your own expertise when the moment calls. I’m the last thing you call a people person. At the same time, I understand the importance of socializing and nurturing relationships. Remember, the name of the game is networking!
Practice Group Etiquette
Every group has its own set of rules members are expected to abide by. Here are three general guidelines that apply in any setting:
- Back off: You’ll wear out your welcome rather quickly if you get into the habit of dominating every other discussion. Instead of rushing to answer each question, give the dialogue some time to flow and let other members have their say on the matter.
- Be humble: We’re all proud of our accomplishments, but they tend to hold much greater weight the less you boast about them. A little humility will go a long way towards enhancing your charm and likability.
- Butter it up: We as humans are genuine suckers for having our egos stroked. You’d be surprised at the impact a simple thank you can have in fostering relationships and building trust with group peers.
Commit to Connect
Networking will give you access to a plethora of potentially valuable connects. Some people may reach out, but chances are, it’s gonna be up to you to make those connections stick. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative to strike up some convo. Find someone interesting and greet them with something along the lines of “Hi, I’m the IT manager of CBD Solutions. We’re both members of the IT Coalition, so I just wanted to reach out and introduce myself.” Since you guys are already affiliated through the group, this will likely go over much smoother than the classic cold situation.
Mingle Before You Market
Maybe you joined the Channel Innovation Group with the sole purpose of boosting conversions and growing your business. Even when your intentions are purely motivated by business goals, you have to be very careful about how you approach communication in this setting. Don’t spam the group with advertisements or sales pitches. Get to know fellow members and focus on building bonds. Make it sincere by asking questions and sharing content others might find valuable. In this environment, your social skills are just as important as your IT or business skills.
Branch Out and Start Your Own Group
Nothing says credibility and expertise quite like heading up your own IT group. Here’s your chance to show that your firm is a thought leader in the field. One worthy of following. An initiative like this is not only a powerful branding tool, but a highly effective way to meet interesting people and build community around your brand. Having said that, this is no project to take lightly. If you’re not up for moderating conversations and creating an environment that keeps your community engaged, you might as well stay on the member side of the fence.
Host your own event
Once you have a few names on your friend list, why not have your own open-house and invite them to your office for lunch or drinks? There’s a lot of benefit to hosting your own event such as building stronger relationships with existing community members, meeting other like-minded professionals, and yes, even finding new clients. For some more information on hosting events, check out our guide The MSP and VAR Events Guide.