The basic idea behind networking hasn’t changed a bit over the years – people gathering together to exchange information and ideas, to look for help or offer advice, to learn about new business opportunities and give each other a boost up the ladder of success. What has changed though is the venue. In the past people networked in conference rooms, cocktail lounges and across the fence in the backyard. These days they meet up online. Learn how to unleash your networking skills to find new opportunities online.
Don’t be shy: In the past it was OK to be shy and hide in the corner. Eventually someone would see you and come over to talk. When you’re networking online though, people can’t ‘see’ you enter the room. You need to speak up and announce your presence.
Get a feel for the place: There are all kinds of networking sites on the Internet and some are more welcoming than others. Each site operates differently, too. Get a feel for the place before you just dive right in. Watch how the conversation flows, what people are talking about, and even how they’re talking about it. Are these people you think you’d like to get to know? If not, don’t be afraid to leave and go elsewhere. There are plenty of other places to network online.
Have a goal in mind: Sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are some of the best places to make new contacts but they’re also each filled with millions of members. What is it that you want to achieve with your networking and what type of people do you need to connect with in order to achieve that goal? Use keywords to search the site to find the right people to connect with. And don’t worry if you can only find a few to start with. That’s the beauty of networking. You make a new contact, they introduce you to two more, those two introduce you to two more…. Soon you’ll be swimming in contacts!
Get involved: The best way to get involved is to ask for help with something. People love to help other people, so just ask away. Ask how to do something on the site. For example, you could ask how to put your picture on your profile or how to send a private message. You can also ask how to find other people to talk to – that will open up a big conversation! Be careful though. Don’t ask irrelevant questions or questions with obvious answers. Then you’ll just look like a poser and everyone will ignore you.
Join in conversations gradually: When you go to a party at someone’s home, who’s the most annoying person in the crowd? The guy with the big-mouth who hijacks every conversation. Don’t be that guy! If someone asks you for advice, give it, but don’t go throwing it around like you’re Mr. Know-It-All. It’s harder to get to know someone on line because you can’t see their face or read their body language. And it’s much easier to offend someone when you’re communicating in text only. Take your time, get to know people, and let them get to know you. You can make some very valuable contacts online but you have to mind your manners.
You’re not there to sell: The most important thing to remember when you’re networking online is that you’re not there to sell. You’re there to make contacts. Just like you do with your offline networking. When you go to that cocktail party you don’t enter the room and start your sales pitch. You introduce yourself, meet new people, and interact with them socially. If you’re there for business purposes you’ll find out through the course of conversation who can help further your business and you’ll make arrangements to meet with them for business purposes sometime in the future. But for the time being, you’re there just to socialize and make those business contacts.
The same holds true for the networking you do online. You go to Twitter or Facebook or whatever site you choose to meet people and make contacts. If you want to discuss business with them, if you want to try to sell them something, then you invite them to visit your website. But you don’t do your selling on the social sites. That’s the quickest way to turn yourself into persona non grata.
If you’re looking for a way to develop new contacts then the online social networks are the place to go. Unleash your new social networking skills and find plenty of new online opportunities.