Love it or hate it, networking is an absolute must for all businesses.  But in today’s digital world, there’s much more available to business owners than just traditional networking events. Online networking is just as powerful as in-person networking and can lead to great opportunities.  Here are 5 online networking tips you can use today.

 

5 Online Networking Tips You Can Use Today

 

Online Networking Tip #1: Be Deliberate In Your Efforts

 

Let’s face it, networking, whether in-person or online, takes a lot of time, effort, and energy – all of which are in short supply for small business owners.  So before you hop onto every social network, online group, or digital forum you can find, take some time to figure out exactly what you want to gain from your efforts.  easy online networking tips

 

Is it to:

  •  Gain leads and customers?
  •  Learn from or teach other business owners?
  •  Develop specific skills?
  •  Build credibility and develop thought leadership?

 

Whatever your reasons, being clear about them will save you from spending precious time and energy hanging out in the wrong groups.

 

Online Networking Tip #2: Spring Clean Your Profiles

 

Whatever online properties you have, make sure they’re accurate, current, and fully complete – whether you’re using them or not.  Your profiles are your ‘online face’, so put your best self forward.  

 

Take some time and make sure:

  •  Fields are completed fully.
  •  Contact information is accurate.
  •  Headshots are current and professional.
  •  Content is interesting and free of grammatical errors and typos.

 

This will boost chances to connect with others who share your interests and prevent missed opportunities due to missing or incorrect contact information.

 

Online Networking Tip #3: Remember It’s a Two-Way Street

 

While it’s perfectly acceptable to promote your business and ask for what you want (a meeting, advice, a referral, etc), don’t forget to give, too.  One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make when networking online is to focus only on what’s in it for them.

online networking tips

Instead:

  •  Be open and interested in the value others bring to your group.
  •  Engage with other members by participating in conversations and commenting on their posts.
  •  Become a resource by connecting people who may be able to help each other.
  •  Share valuable resources (your own and others) more often than you promote yourself.

 

Generosity goes a long way when networking online. Don’t gain a reputation for being that person who only reaches out when they want something.

 

Online Networking Tip #4: Maintain Boundaries

 

The key to building relationships, whether online or off, is to be genuine, authentic, and transparent.  However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also be professional and maintain healthy boundaries, too.

 

To build stronger digital relationships:

  •  Resist the urge to ‘friend’ every member of your online group on your personal accounts.
  •  Always be polite and respectful in your posts and comments.  If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, or want your mom or boss to hear it, don’t write it.
  •  Don’t overshare personal or private details of your life.
  •  Remember that people can’t read your nonverbal communication. Be mindful when using humor.

 

While there are some differences between acceptable etiquette when networking in the real world versus the digital world, the rules are generally the same.  So, if you wouldn’t do or say something in a roomful of people, it’s a safe bet that you shouldn’t do it online either.

 

Online Networking Tip #5: Be In It for the Long Haul

 

While it’s true that making connections online is a fairly quick process, truly making connections is not.  It takes time to build trust and form strong relationships when networking online.  online networking tips

 

To nurture digital relationships:

  •  Maintain a consistent and regular presence in your networks.
  •  Use a customer relationship management (CRM) program to help you stay on top of relationships.
  •  Follow up just to say hello, ask how someone is doing, or share something that might be helpful to them with no expectation of getting something in return.
  •  Do what you say you will do and deliver on your promises.

 

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience immediate results as you network online.  Keep up your efforts and don’t give up too quickly.

 

In Sum

There’s so much to gain from taking the time to network online.  New customers and clients . . . strategic business partnerships . . . opportunities to learn and grow as a professional . . . a chance to give back . . . The list goes on and on!  So what are you waiting for?  Use these 5 online networking tips today and start developing digital relationships that will lead to great things tomorrow!

 

What online networking tips do you have?

Share them with our readers in the comments!

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