I have always valued the benefit of networking. It is a challenge to decide what networking opportunities are the most time effective. There are a limited number of events per month I can manage to participate in so deciding which will benefit my business the most is a marketing decision I struggle with each month.
I am a member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and have been for 30 years, longer than I have done anything else, including raising my children.
My business is a member of two Chambers of Commerce, both Manatee and Pinellas Park in Florida. I am on the small business committee of the Manatee chamber which meets once per month for an hour in the morning.
When I was in Michigan I was a member of the Construction Association of Michigan and the Associated General Contractors. I have not re-joined any construction associatons other than NAWIC since being in Florida (now 3 1/2 years) but am considering making that move soon.
There are network associations popping up all over the place these days. They are private and local to your specific area. In these associations, the members refer the other members of the group to each other and everyone they know. Some groups have only one of each kind of company in an industry so your competition is not a member of the group at the same time you are. But...you cannot miss meetings, if you miss your meeting, another company, possibly your competitor will take your position. If I refer someone to one of my clients or a friend or my family, I want to know they are good at what they do. I don't want to refer someone just because I'm in a group that requires me to do that. I understand that the theory is to grow your business, but I'm not sure yet if these groups are for me, although I'm sure there are very skilled people in the group that I would be happy to refer.
With the Internet, we network no matter what we do. The world sees us, blogging, writing articles, what colleges we attended and who our friends are (my space, face book).
It is important to say what you mean and stand behind what you say. If we aren't sure of something, we must state up front that it is an opinion or we shouldn't say it at all. My mother taught me and I taught my children "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all". I guess after all these years, this still holds true.
Oh and one more thing, Blogs are almost always "opinions"!