The old method went like this: Use “networking” as an opportunity to drum up business. Approach an owner of an online marketing firm. Shake hands, swap cards and talk about yourself a bit. Then later, follow up with an email along the lines of, “Don’t forget about me — I can design things! Pay me money to do that!”
The new method is like this: Create an opportunity to learn about other peoples' interests and challenges — don't even think of the word “networking.” Approach the owner of the online marketing firm — introduce yourself, shake hands, ask for the owner’s card, then ask questions about their business and what they do. (be genuinely interested) Then you follow up with an email with something helpful to the online marketing owner’s business. Perhaps an article on lead conversion optimization you stumbled upon; maybe an ebook on managing employees your old boss swore by; maybe a potential lead for the firm. You repeat this giving here and there, and importantly, you don't have any expectations from these actions.