Virtual networking: Tacoma Network uses Web to connect people

If you’re a businessperson wanting to get the word out about your services or if you happen to be “between jobs” and looking for ways to hook up with some opportunities – “networking” is the tried and true buzzword that will usually help you along.
The Tacoma Network is an organization devoted to networking.
They’ve been holding monthly networking events in Tacoma since February 2000.
South Sound tech execs, business owners and college grads just starting their careers regularly attend for both the panel discussions and the socializing.
The Tacoma Network recently launched an interactive functionality to their Web site that may be a popular alternative to busy workers.
It incorporates member profiles and a smart search technology to help people identify new business contacts and promote their company.
I recently became a member of the Tacoma Network online community and wanted to make you aware of it, too.
I asked Jim Crabbe, co-founder of, to explain the benefits of virtual networking.
Crabbe is also a Marketing executive at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, on Congressman Adam Smith’s advisory panel and helped produce the new KBTC-TV show “Pulse: The Public Health Report.”
Q: Please give us a little background on Tacoma Network and why it was formed?
Crabbe: We created the Tacoma Network three years ago in downtown Tacoma.
It was created in an effort to try to help the small to mid-sized businesses, particularly in the technology economy, to find out who was here and how to work together to provide services and boost the local tech sector.
Q: Tell us your thoughts behind your new online community building tools on the web site?
When we initially created the Tacoma Network, we used to have a lot of monthly meetings where we’d bring in the business owners and executives from the local tech area.
We would talk about common topics and introduce people to each other so they could leverage partnerships to get things going in the local economy.
The group averages 100-150 people per meeting.
Meanwhile, online people were signing up at a much more rapid pace to find out what was going on in the local region.
So we went back to the drawing board and created some online tools to allow people to network in the virtual world.
The most interesting part of that was we created a kind of profile system where you list who you are and what you’re looking for.
Then the system will actually go through and pair you up with people that are looking for what you’re offering or have what you are looking for.
It’s kind of like going to a physical networking event, but instead of having to talk to all 100 people in the room, you get to find the person you’re looking for.
Our system just says, “Hey! Talk to these five people instead of all 100.”
Q: Give us an example of how you’ve been able to facilitate hooking people up.
Crabbe: There was a person who came on to the Web site – a small business owner that wanted to move to the Tacoma region who was looking for office space to sublet.
He sent out inquiries to some folks in the system and listed on his profile that he was looking for office space.
I shot him an e-mail of two, three people I knew that might be interested in subletting some space.
He got back to me and told me he actually found space and that about thirty people had helped him out to find space through our site. He’s now in Tacoma.
Q: So the site looks for keyword matches in the member profiles?
Crabbe: Yes, the site looks at the criteria in your profile.
It’s a little more complicated than a keyword search because we throw in a lot of other bits of information: how long someone’s been in business, their particular experience.
The registration process can take a little bit of time because we’ve enabled the system so that people can really personalize it.
That way if there is someone else who offers the same service you do, you might be able to present yourself as being more unique and give the pros and cons of working with you as opposed to the other person.
Q: Can you give us some tips on how to be a successful networker, whether you’re at a physical event or online?
Crabbe: I think people who are really good at the networking thing have a common trait.
They aren’t afraid to talk to people they don’t know.
They remember faces and names. And they usually have a Rolodex in their head of the people they know and what they do.
They tend to connect people they know to one another based on needs, without necessarily any personal gain in it for themselves.
Someone may come up to them and say they’re looking for X, Y, Z and a good networker is going to say, “Hey, you need to talk to this guy over here.”
In turn, what you do is create a referral that comes back to you eventually.
Q: What lies ahead for the Tacoma Network?
Crabbe: We see the Tacoma Network growing quite a bit.
My partner Nick Huzar and I have seen it grow very, very rapidly since we launched this latest version.
A lot has been based on referrals – again, that concept of trying to help someone.
The old saying “He who serves is served best” tends to work out, we’ve found.
People are recommending the site and we haven’t had to do much but watch it grow.
The full audio interview with Jim Crabbe will broadcast this Saturday on KLAY 1180 AM at 11 a.m. and is available for listening anytime at
Dana Greenlee is a Web designer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. WebTalkGuys was just named the top “Hidden Gem” in PCWorld Magazine’s August 2002 issue. It is broadcast locally on KLAY 1180 AM Saturdays at 11 a.m. The show is also on CNET Radio in San Francisco and Boston, on the Web at, and via the XM Satellite Network, on IM Networks’ Sonic Box and on the Mobil Broadcast Network. Past shows and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at

WebTalkGuys Radio Show

This week’s topic: Search engines

Many businesses have endeavored to get listed near the top of the Internet search engines.
The process can be convoluted with several techniques to consider.
For instance, what do you need to do to make your site indexable?
Does automated software submission work anymore?
Are sponsored links effective?
“WebTalkGuys Radio” will explore how to get listed in search engines with Danny Sullivan, editor of, at 11 a.m. Saturday on KLAY-AM (1180).
Also, Jim Crabbe will talk about The Tacoma Network’s new online community networking tool at