How to Network Online Successfully
Networking used to involve attending events, navigating a crowded room, scoping out the best people to talk to, shaking hands, swapping business cards, and then attempting to start a meaningful conversation. Of course, this face-to-face networking is still very important, and always will be. But today we now do a lot of our networking online, which has created real, focused, commercial opportunities to network.
However, not everyone knows how to go about this new world of networking. So, how should you approach online networking? We’ve put together some tips to help you navigate your way through your online networking world.
Be active on social media
The most popular choice for online networking isLinkedIn. It’s the natural choice if you’re looking to connect with people in your industry, connect with current colleagues, past colleagues, people from universities, and school, post industry updates, share knowledge and search for jobs.
However, before you start networking via LinkedIn, make sure your profile is up-to-date and looks professional. Start with the basics and look through our Essential LinkedIn Guide for tips including details about your headline, photo, summary section, education, accomplishments, work history, etc. All these aspects are vital as they may lead to conversations with your contacts about commonalities, which can be networking gold.
Ensure you review LinkedIn’s suggested connections frequently and join relevant LinkedIn Groups. Be proactive in writing comments on other people's blog posts, articles, and in forums wherever possible. Take the time to write recommendations for connections and endorse skills where appropriate.
By building an active personal brand on LinkedIn, it will inform people what kind of person you are based on your comments, feedback, and involvement, while also setting yourself up for successful connections. The key is to make sure your connections are relevant – quality not quantity is vital when building your network.
You can also use other social media channels like Instagram and Twitter for online networking. However, keep in mind that not everyone is comfortable connecting with professional contacts through these platforms.
Attend virtual networking events
Virtual events are here to stay. So here are two quick tips to enhance your online networking events:
Once you register for your event, you should post it via your social media accounts such as LinkedIn or Twitter to share that you’ll be attending — this can help spur conversation with valued contacts who may also be planning to attend the virtual event.
During the virtual event, be an engaged participant. A lot of online events will have a Q&A section, so ask questions and share relevant expertise during the event. Just be sure to add value to the conversation.
Virtual networking events are a great way to stay on top of the latest news in your industry, connect with people in your industry, and share your industry knowledge too. Plus, you just never know – you could end up meeting your newest client or next employer! So start filling up your calendar with relevant virtual networking events!
Unsure when’s the right time to connect with someone? One thing to remember is not to reach out only when you need something – this is one sure way to ruin a potential connection for your network. This sort of urgency to connect is easy to spot for experienced networkers. No one wants to connect with people who are only interested in getting their needs met. So start networking long before you need immediate connections.
Top tip: start putting together a list of the potential companies you’d like to work for, or clients you’d like to work with in the future, network with people there first, and make meaningful connections for future endeavours.
Also remember when sending out a connection request, always personalise them.
Be helpful and a good resource
When you need advice or support, you want your professional connections to be there for you. This also works the other way around – you want your connections to view you as a resource too.
There’s plenty of ways of being a valuable resource for your connections. One simple way is by sharing interesting news items and commenting on posts. Offer ideas, advice, or any assistance within your scope of knowledge and ability. But like all things with online networking, be strategic in your approach and always strive to add value.
You should also be proactive with helping your connections when you can. For example, if you learn through your online networking that a former colleague, classmate, etc, is looking for a new job, you could offer to provide a professional reference, if it’s appropriate to do so. Or see if someone in your network might know of any potential opportunities at their company that might align well with the experience and skills of your contact.
You’re not promising them anything other than a helping hand. Best part? They’ll remember you for it.
Follow-up and be genuine
Make networking a part of your daily life and build meaningful connections constantly. Remember that effective networking involves staying in touch and being genuine. So share engaging and relevant content that will be of interest to your online connections. Remember to like, comment, and share updates from your connections. And join and contribute to industry groups. If you have a lot of expertise in certain areas, you could start your own LinkedIn blog and build up your professional brand.
Overall, be authentic, genuine, and insightful. Show interest in others, ask questions and be respectful of people’s time. In the end, building a network virtually is just like building a network face to face.
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