Keen to make meaningful online connections but not sure where to start? Networking is an important tactic for anyone looking to advance their career. Do your research, make your intentions clear and build your own personal brand to see your digital presence flourish.
While face-to-face networking events still play their part, social networking on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook now offers you the chance to build your knowledge base, forge new connections and establish your reputation as a thought leader in your chosen field anytime, day or night. It’s exciting, and you should always seize the opportunity to gain and share new information - every little bit will help you to determine the next steps to take in your career.
build the right social network
The continually evolving online environment lends itself well to following as many different groups and people as possible. Take the time to seek out leaders in your chosen field, watch who they follow, read the articles they share, join the same forums and meet more like-minded individuals in the conversations that follow.
One of the best parts about networking online is bypassing the small talk and being very targeted in the thoughts you share, the questions you pose and the information you seek. All the while, be mindful that you’re using a digital platform and without that face-to-face connection, you need to show you have a good understanding of who you’re talking to and why. Don’t wade into a discussion you’re not prepared for – ask direct and relevant questions, ensure you’ve done the research to back yourself up, and be respectful of differing viewpoints.
With every connection you make, ask yourself why you’ve targeted that individual or group, what you want to achieve from the connection and how you can contribute. Are you looking for a job specifically? Seeking a business partner? Or are you simply hoping to expand your knowledge base? Do you have useful knowledge or experience you can share?
Once you’ve made some initial connections, it’s time to build those early relationships and your personal brand. You can do that by sharing useful articles, commenting on those posted by others and regularly taking part in forum conversations.
Starting your own blog is a good way to establish your reputation too. Managed well – with a regular posting schedule and high-quality content that’s useful to those people you want to meet – a blog allows you to showcase your brand regularly, pose your own questions and invite others to comment. Since the responses are quite public and span different platforms, you’ll be growing your network and establishing yourself as a thought leader in the process.
take it to the real world
When the time is right, moving online relationships offline is your next step. Here, a digital relationship filled with targeted questions and online profiles will stand you in good stead for working out who to meet face-to-face and how.
You’ve had a chance to get to know them, gained their insights and learnt what their position might be on particular topics - as a result, you understand the person and what makes them tick. Before you meet them in person, you can see exactly where you could add value and quickly establish a more personal connection. Little details like throwing away the jargon and being aware of timing will also increase your chances of forging a good relationship in the real world.
Be yourself and don’t hold back – you get out what you put in, just like any kind of networking.