Virtual Networking — Making the Most of Your Online Connections
There are so many ways to make new connections online — social media interactions have opened new networking opportunities for everyone. Expanding your online network of professional contacts will open up more opportunities for success, help grow your business or brand and increase your chance of getting noticed by influencers.
Knowing how to make the most of these online connections is important. Of course, maintaining connections offline is important, too, whether it’s checking in with a phone call or meeting for drinks after work to catch up on each other’s lives. Face-to-face connections are often more familiar and more firmly established, but while you may not have as strong a history with your online connections, these relationships are no less valuable, and nurturing them is just as important.
Six ways to make the most of virtual networking opportunities:
- It’s who you know and who they know: Social networks make it easy to see who knows who. Need an introduction to somebody who might be able to help you take the next step in your career or business? Ask your connection for an introduction. You can learn a lot about a potential new company or investor by browsing profiles of people who have worked or interacted with those companies in the past.
- Participate in the conversation: Take advantage of groups in your areas of interest or local geography. Participate in these groups. Post an article; comment on a conversation. Over time, people will come to know and respect you as an authority. Check out the IAW website, where members can regularly engage in conversation on message boards and participate in chat opportunities during eChapter and eCoaching events.
- Keep in touch: Be sure to periodically check in with the connections you make online. A simple comment on their status message or sharing an interesting piece of news with them can help to keep you fresh in their minds.
- Showcase yourself: Keep your profile up to date and professional in appearance (profile photos count!). Show the world what you have done and what you are capable of. You never know when your profile will show up in somebody’s search and this is your chance to make a great first impression.
- Be professional: When you meet someone in person, a firm handshake, an elevator pitch and a business card go a long way in establishing your professionalism. Obviously, you can’t physically shake someone’s hand or hand them a business card online but that doesn’t mean you can’t convey that same professionalism. When messaging someone, be sure your words are concise and businesslike (no lol’s, ttyl’s or smiley faces) and, yes, grammar still counts…don’t forget to use spellcheck!
- Be helpful: Always be willing to take that extra step and offer your help, whether it’s sharing your expertise, contacting someone in your network on behalf of your new connection or simply offering some sage advice. These are all great ways to deepen a connection and helps to leave the door open for future interactions that are mutually beneficial.
Making the most of your online connections and nurturing these important relationships will ensure your virtual network continues to grow and thrive.