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Discussion Lists as a Business Networking Tool

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Business Networking Discussion List

An online discussion list can prove to be a superb tool for networking, one that has the opportunity to become personal and move from the virtual into the real world. It operates differently to a forum, where you have to go to a website to read and make posts, and where people have user names that mask their real identity.

With as discussion list, each post comes directly to your e-mail inbox. That obviously makes it much easier to read posts during the course of a day, but more than that, it means you have the e-mail addresses of those who post, making direct communication perfectly possible.

What Does a Discussion List Do?

A discussion group coalesces around a topic or issue (or a connected series of them), so that all the postings, or at least a certain number, will relate to that – in a loosely moderated list, discussion can range far off topic and sometimes be quite amusing. But there is a central interest that brings everyone together in the first place and keeps them there – a list will gain and lose members, but the core will tend to remain steady.

Personalities do emerge, as some people post more than others, some are more humorous, and so on. How often you post, of course, is up to you. Many will be what are called lurkers, rarely posting at all.

How To Use a Discussion List

Assuming the list is in some way related to your business, then that will be useful in itself, bringing ideas and opinions that you can use every day in your work and keeping you abreast of developments and rumours in your field. However, its practical use is much more than that. Since everyone on the list has the same basic interest, it readily opens up the possibility of direct communication with individuals on more specific topics – which is networking, since you’re building a business relationship.

Don’t be afraid to do that, since a lot of conversations will actually be off-list. Address issues that a person has raised. Since it all comes within your area of expertise, you’ll be able to speak with authority, as will the other party. You might well find that your companies can help each other, and it can turn into a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s something you can pursue with a number of individuals on the list, where appropriate (don’t use the list purely for this purpose, since it won’t make you popular). It’s a fine chance to build up some strong, lasting business relationships, and some global contacts, since the Internet isn’t limited by country – you’ll find people on the list from all over the world. That could even lead to you finding new markets for your product or service.

The Advantages of a Discussion List

By coming directly to your inbox, discussion lists offer instant access to postings, and give you the opportunity to respond quickly. Since they contain e-mail addresses, there’s the chance to communicate directly with others on the list and develop personal relationships.

Like forums, you can access it from any computer, so you can keep up on everything that’s happening on a daily basis, and quickly exchange comments – someone might have the answer to a question that can help you in a presentation, for instance.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Discussion lists can be an excellent resource for anyone. Remember, networking isn’t just about increasing business, but obtaining help, learning more, increasing contacts in all manner of ways. Utilising a list well brings all those things and can increase your understanding of particular subjects. They’re well worth the time spent, if you can find a very active one any more.
Rob - 24-Sep-12 @ 11:03 AM
Discussion lists do tend to be underused these days, a tool that seemed to have some popularity but which people have ignored. That's a shame, because the different viewpoints of people giving input can be very valuable, not only in making contacts, but also opening up issues and offering ideas the originator might not have thought about. Bring back the discussion list!
Tony - 30-May-12 @ 10:47 AM
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