I like to keep things simple and that’s why I define networking groups as Macro-Networking and Micro-Networking. What are the benefits and differences, and should you choose one over the other?
Some refer to these as casual contact or open group networks. They allow many people from various professions with few restrictions. The most common of these groups are chambers of commerce. A chamber of commerce is an association of businesses and industries that aims to promote economic development and growth in a specific region or locality. It serves as a representative of the business community, providing advocacy, networking opportunities, and resources to its members.
I’ve always found a unique value in chambers due to the diversity of their members. You can find yourself connecting with a home-based business owner, corporate executive, and everything in between.
Another value of Macro-Networking is the large number of participants in these groups. The brand exposure alone can be much greater here. But it can be more than that. You can be part of something bigger than yourself.
One core value of a leadership program I attended was It’s “We,” Not “Me.” A chamber of commerce not only provides opportunities for you to connect with others and work on your business, you also become part of the business community that advocates for the local business economy. This is done through marketing campaigns, programs, and advocating for business-friendly governance. Chambers offer more than networking and you don't have to attend to get value.
There’s a saying in the chamber world, “When you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber.” All chambers of commerce have different leadership styles of working to achieve the same primary goal of creating opportunities for you and your business.
Some refer to these as strong contact or closed group networks. These are organizations that help members exchange business referrals in an exclusive environment. By exclusive I mean they allow only one person per profession or specialty to join them. I know many business people that do very well in these groups but you must be prepared to commit to it. They usually require a larger investment and have attendance and other requirements. They too have different leadership styles and formats and are there to help you achieve the growth and success of your business.
Our chamber has a few of these groups as members and we welcome them with open arms. Micro-Networking Groups are a business and they need customers too. Where’s the best place to find a large group of people looking to build their business? Bingo, a chamber of commerce!
I’ve seen chambers consider Micro-Networking Groups as unwelcome competitors. This is due to Micro-Networking Groups taking advantage of chambers by recruiting from them without being a member themselves. This is unfortunate and avoidable. I consider the two to be very different mechanisms that can work synergistically together, but they must be willing to do so and understand their differences.
There are also other types of networking groups available that include:
- Social Media/Online Networks
- Community Service Clubs
- Professional Associations
So, should you choose one over the other? My message is always clear and consistent. "Join as many organizations as possible that you can participate in and/or would like to support." There are many to choose from and more are coming. It should be about expanding your network and gaining access to other markets. Find out what works for you and is worthy of your support and participation.
Greater EMC Chamber