In some ways networking online is not that different from networking offline (or what used to be called, so quaintly, “in person.” In the end, the most effective approach is to be both interesting and — sincerely — interested.
How is Networking Online The Same as Networking Offline?
Here are the basic principles:
- Be prepared. Think about what you want to get out of your networking and what you have to offer.
- Be a good listener. Most people think that networking involves a lot of talking. There is truth to that! But, the most effective networkers are good listeners. By listening, they can tell what the person’s problems and pain points are and address those.
- Be prepared to share what you do quickly and clearly. You have about 30 seconds to make an impression — online or off. By thinking through what you do and how you want to communicate — in advance — you have a better chance of getting your message across.
- Make sure what you do solves the other person’s problems. Networking is, of course, about people. And, for better or worse, people have problems. You have solutions. Make sure you communicate the solutions you provide.
- Be polite (and caring). Networking is a little like gardening: you are planting and nurturing seeds. You need to be consistent in your care and also patient. Each time you meet someone, try to focus, engage and exchange instead of simply trying to deliver your message with an “it’s all about me” attitude.
How to Network Online: It’s All About The Tools You Use
The main ways in which online networking is different than offline are the tools you use to make it happen. (Last week I blogged about taming your social media marketing mega monster. Use those tips to manage your networks most effectively.)
Instead of going to cocktail parties, you go to social networks. Depending on where your customers and prospects are, you will want to network on some of the following sites plus niche sites (such as Project Eve!):
- LinkedIn. Great for lead generation. Create and respond to discussions.
- Facebook. A good place to entertain and provide information.
- Twitter. A place to follow and start conversations.
- Google+. Serves some of the same functions as Facebook, but, since Google is such a major player, having and using your account helps you with your overall marketing strategy, include SEO.
- YouTube. Not exactly a networking site, but videos are very popular and rank well for search engines. YouTube’s popularity makes it a great place to share content.
- Pinterest. Especially good for businesses that focus on women, Pinterest is another way to promote your blog (so be sure to have great images!) and allows you to connect with people in a new way.
- Yelp. People love yelp and having a business listing there allows you to build social proof around your reputation.
Social networks are a great place to build connections, do research and promote yourself. They are, however, only a starting place.
Digging Deeper Into Online Networking
Although social networks like those above are great as a starting point for networking, you really need to establish your web presence and authority as a whole.
It’s kind of like showing up well-dressed to a cocktail party. Follow these steps:
- Create an awesome website with a call to action and a means of keeping people engaged
- Develop a consistent brand look, feel and messaging across all your social networking profiles
- Update your social networking sites regularly with great content and resources
- Comment on other people’s work and
- Create your own work to share
Having a great website with a clear call to action and a conversion funnel gives your networking meaning, while creating a consistent look and feel across social media sites helps establish your brand.
Show You Care
True connections are formed when you give people a reason to care about you by providing great content — be it images, blog posts or videos — and then show people you care about their great content.
Take the time to get to know people’s work. Comment on it. Show that you are truly interested in what they have to offer. As you develop your online relationships, opportunities will arise to to have your work shared by other bloggers and online marketers with links to your site, guest blogging opportunities or other collaborative adventures.
The Take Home
Remember two things:
- Online or off, relationships take time to develop and
- Although it can sound a little calculated, the truth is that the more you put into relationships, the more you get out of them.
It is far more personal to comment on someone’s post than to follow them on Twitter, although ideally you can do both. Truly consider the people with whom you network and take the time and make the effort to create meaningful, authentic online relationships.
How do you network effectively online? Share your tips in the comments.
How To Network Online Without Sidling. openforum.com.
image courtesy of: Open Clip Art