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Netiquette 101: The rules of online networking

15 Jun 2017   Networking Online

The do’s and don’ts of networking online: 3 top tips

We communicate online every day- through emails, websites, social media and other digital platforms. But how can we use the digital world to connect with people, rather than just communicate?

To enhance your professional profile, or open new career opportunities and partnerships, you need to be able to connect and network online as effectively as you do offline.

The challenge becomes how to build a great online professional network that will evolve into becoming valuable, real-life relationships?

The good news is you can easily and effectively nurture your online professional relationships into becoming real-life ones with these three key strategies.

  1. Social Media as an icebreaker

Use social media to your advantage. Switch off those funny cat videos and start investing some time into building your professional network via these social channels. LinkedIn and Twitter are the standouts for professional networking. Both platforms have features that are built specifically for expanding your network, connecting with people and organisations in your field, and researching upcoming events in your industry.

LinkedIn categorises people in your network as 1st, 2nd, 3rd-degree contacts. Start by asking your current contacts to introduce you to people in their network (2nd-degree contacts). This way, you already have a common link with the person you want to connect with. If it sounds confusing- it’s not. It’s exactly the same as asking your friend Jane, to introduce you to her friend John. Voila! This method is the most efficient way to help you connect with people in organisations that you are potentially interested in working for.

If you’ve exhausted your 1st and 2nd-degree contacts, you can also reach out to people you admire; potential mentors, industry influencers and more. LinkedIn has an InMail function that allows you to contact people outside your current network. Advice to reaching out would be just to keep it short and sharp and make it personalised. Once you’ve made the initial connection, then you can start building the relationship and ask for an in-person meeting or coffee. If there’s some way you can offer help or add value from the very first interaction, definitely do so.

“Hi <Name>,

I really enjoyed your latest <article/blog/speech/tweet/insight> into <topic/issue/company/news>.

I follow <company/event/news> quite closely and would love to connect.

Kind regards,

<Your name>”

Hashtags are a great way to #network online. Hashtags quickly let you research trending topics, events, news and greatly reduce the amount of time you’d be searching otherwise. Have a look at the people commenting, tweeting, posting articles or news and connect with them- leave a comment, like or share their content, and always try to add value or advice to the digital conversation.

  1. Become an influencer

We all have unique experiences and expertise to share. You don’t have to be the smartest, fastest, highest achieving expert in your field to have something valuable to offer others. Your personal and professional experience and knowledge are distinctive to you, and social media has made it easier than ever to build your own profile from your experiences. This ties in with our recent article on building your personal brand. Take some time to create your own professional profile online and then work to share valuable content, ideas, insights, advice in the areas you excel.

Join established online business communities and professional bodies- whether that be via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and follow the rule of thirds. One-third of content about you, one-third about your industry and one-third to engage and interact with other people in your network. Once you’ve established yourself, turn these online relationships into offline ones by hosting a small event in your local area, a coffee catch up or a meetup group. Don’t forget your end game: build and nurture your online network to becoming valuable real-life relationships.

  1. Abide by the three golden rules (or risk looking like an idiot)

When it comes to online networking, don’t be a keyboard warrior. Follow these three golden rules:

  • Don’t be inflammatory – everyone has different opinions, let others speak and don’t be drawn into an online argument. Keep it civil, no matter how much of an idiot the other person may be.
  • Don’t ask for jobs from people you don’t know – *cringe* – you need to build and nurture your network before asking for favours or jobs. Why would anyone invest in you when you have invested nothing into building trust, credibility or the relationship first?
  • Be yourself – your online presence should match your offline presence – always. This includes embellishing your qualifications- just don’t do it.

Networking online is your competitive advantage if you choose to utilise it properly. For more tips on how to network effectively, continue reading here.

Just remember: Listen, add value and nurture your online network. Then turn those online relationships into real-life connections. It’s as simple as that.

Good luck!