In the olden days, the term ‘networking’ brought to mind stuffy cocktail parties where people in formal business suits loitered around chatting and exchanging business cards with smiles plastered across their face. But today, with the introduction of social media, that cocktail party format has been digitized to a large extent.
But are the rules the same?
Well, to some extent maybe. But unlike a cocktail party where attendees have willingly chosen to be there and network, the digital space is not as consensual. You may end up pushing someone who had no interest in networking in the first place.
So how do you toe that boundary and network online without being irritating? We’ve compiled a list of five, simple ways to master the art!
Your goal when networking online should be to establish a worthwhile presence. You can start this by joining online groups and communities relevant to your industry and actively participating in them. Write comments on other people’s blogs and articles, discuss important, relevant topics in forums, and share content that interests you with your own added viewpoint.
This visibility will make you less of a stranger to those you choose to approach later. And as a bonus, it will also market your abilities, interests, passion, and intellect without being pushy about it.
2. Utilize Different Platforms for Different Purposes
Social media is varied. What you share on one platform may not be as well suited for another. For example, if you were to add someone you wanted to connect with directly on LinkedIn, it would most likely come off as a tad bit desperate – not to mention unsolicited.
However, if you were to tweet them with something meaningful either with regards to their work or in reply to something they’ve said, it would be more appropriate. This is because of the nature of Twitter’s interface. It’s less personal than LinkedIn and therefore, makes contacting people you don’t know less awkward.
3. Networking Online is Also a Two Way Street
Just like with old school networking, the online world is no different. You need to be mindful of how you build your relationships. Make sure it’s a two way street. Give shout outs to other people and businesses. It will make it more likely that someone will offer to give you a referral too.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Things Offline
Sometimes, it can be simpler to take a conversation offline to more traditional forms of communication like meeting in person, or even a phone call. However, this needs to be determined with care. If you get too insistent on meeting someone in person when all you’ve done is exchange a few emails, it can get irritating and backfire. Make sure you have a good connection with the person and they are showing equal interest in you.
Ultimately, the things that matter most in online networking interactions are the same as old school traditions. Be charming, polite, and most importantly – be yourself and be considerate of the other person to and you’ll be fine!