I recently wrote that networking is not a numbers game and someone replied that it is a people game. She was right and that means it is a social activity. It is no accident that much of the best business networking takes place in a social setting around the sharing of food.
In fact most of our time is spent in real life social networks. These include our family, school friends, college friends, work friends, church, social clubs, sports clubs, business groups, community groups, hobbies etc. In each of these we will have a few really close ‘connections’ or ‘friends’ and some more looser ties. It is not always appropriate to mix people from the different groups and this is often the distinction that people make about their 'business network'. In the social network for your business you will also need some really close connections and you need to invest time and effort in building the right relationships.
When you accept that your business network is social then it makes it easier to decide who to network with. First it's about finding those with something in common. That will include target market, geography, and shared interests and outlook. You will know some of these already, but you may need to find some good networking groups that you are comfortable in. Then it's about spending time with the people you like and getting to rate and trust each other. The sharing of business, support and knowledge is part of that relationship building process.