It’s all about who you know, and the more connected you are, the more valuable you become. We rely on networking to move forward. You need a connection to link you to a multi-millionaire investor in Silicon Valley? No problem, let me toggle through my contacts.
In the early 1900s, networking meant a simple handshake and a reassuring nod. If you are picturing the Leonardo DiCaprio nod in "The Great Gatsby" when he raises his cocktail glass and cracks that knowing and curiously powerful smile, we're on the same page here.
Today, connecting is boundless. We went from a face-to-face, voice-to-voice generation to a generation of hyperactive thumbs- a generation that adapted to social network-driven interactions.
For a minute, we all held our breath, certain that this generation would grow up to be socially awkward nerds, but instead they are now building apps that have come full circle -- apps that facilitate every kind of in-person meetup, including networking, meetings, dating, finding friends. Need to find someone to hike with you this Saturday because your friends prefer the feel of cushions under their bums? There is an app for that.
Let’s run through a sampling of these apps.
For DATING, we have Tinder.
Tinder is the frat boy of dating apps. It presents you with potential matches based on location, gender and age preferences. It takes about 3 minutes to set up - You log in with Facebook and the app pulls your latest profile pictures. You can add a little tagline, “I will tell your mom we met at Book Club,” and then you’re ready to start swiping through prospects. You like his/her pictures? Swipe that photo to the right! If you happen to both fancy each other’s faces, you can start in-app direct messaging, and the rest is history.
Feeling a little friendlier? Badoo.
Badoo is a people finder presenting possible dates AND friends. Want to go to a Katy Perry concert, but all of your friends suddenly “have plans?” Maybe one of the more than 180 million people on Badoo would like to join you. By selecting your interests, you can increase your chances of finding people similar to you. Want to find someone in the same bar as you? Find someone to grab coffee with? And perhaps stumble upon THE ONE - all at the same time? Go for Badoo.
Two’s company, but three’s a party! Meetup
If you’re looking for a connection that runs deeper than “Hey, you’re cute - let’s grab a drink,” and you have a specific interest you want to pursue - literally, any interest - try Meetup. They leave no room for excuses - there’s even a Meetup for a Nashville Shyness and Social Anxiety Club. I’m still searching for the sci-fi fan club Meetup. And anything else you would need to meet up for: hiking, business networking, thrifting, book club… you name it, there’s a Meetup for it. "It's about collective action," Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup told Fast Company. "How are people going to self-organize in a way that gives them more power?" With about 50 thousand Meetups happening per day, I’d say Heiferman got this formula right.
Looking for something a bit more professional? Meet LunchMeet.
Your days of solitary bathroom stall PB&Js are over. LunchMeet, brought to you by LinkedIn, allows you to broadcast your mealtime availability to your LinkedIn connections. You just have to wait for one of your connections to agree to meet up. Yes, you are risking rejection, but you’re also opening yourself up to many hours of glass-clinking, chuckles, creative conversation, new ideas, and big thinking.
Got your Oxfords laced up, and ready to talk business? Networker
Networker is as straightforward about networking as its name implies. It doesn’t play around with cute names and colorful logos. It’ll help you from your first step in the door to the moment you throw your tie to the side and scroll pridefully through all your freshly-obtained in-app business cards. This app leaves nothing out - you even enter your icebreaker info during app setup. Networker provides recommended people for you, direct messaging, and allows you to “follow-up” after exchanging business cards. Watch out, Don Draper. Now we can all be as smooth as you. Oh. Did I mention it assists event organizers too? I know. I should have told you to sit down for this one.
This digital-to-face-to-face facilitation trend is at a peak, and showing no signs of slowing. True to form, of course, where there are places for people to connect, there are businesses finding ways to monetize.
Meetup launched a resource, allowing businesses to search for relevant groups for which to offer deals. Businesses pay $5 per month per group offer, and Meetup organizers can choose to opt in for the deal. "If you’re a business and you want Meetup groups to publicize your Perk, it better be good or else organizers won’t opt in," Meetup Vice President of Strategy Andres Glusman told Mashable. "The vision is about businesses having the opportunity to earn the group members' business."
Inviting businesses to join is a move driven by monetary incentive to these networking app companies as well. Tinder is currently looking into ways it can “fit more in” without deteriorating the simplistic experience of the App. “The good news,” Tinder Co-Founder Sean Rad told Forbes,“is that monetization in the dating industry tends to be very easy.” I suppose all is fair in love and business-optimization.