Online networking can seem like a bizarre and mysterious world to traditional ‘offline’ professionals, or anyone who graduated before the turn of the millennium. The world is moving quickly, but it turns out the rules of networking online are the same as what you learned at the Chamber of Commerce mixer. You know more than you think. Here at Business Pundit, David has given entrepreneurs a guide for social media. Here are five ways to translate your existing networking skills onto the Internet environment:
1. Never Sell at Networking Meetings
On the web, forums, comments, and social media sites are your ‘networking meetings’. Leaving shallow comments at every tangentially relevant site and only recommending your own stuff is the online equivalent to that guy working the room with a thousand business cards. It’s better to make just a few quality contacts who don’t think you’re a jerk.
2. Perfect Your Pitch
Offline we learn to craft an elevator speech, a 30 second commercial to get across who we are and what we do. On this point, the Internet is definitely your friend. The profile is your online counterpart to this high-speed sales pitch. The wonderful thing is you have the opportunity to get these first impressions just right and to adjust them over time.
3. Give Before You Get
The surest way to foster goodwill both online and off is by being generous with your support. Want more traffic? Post lots of links. Need help with your site design? Give away what you’re good at. The key is to offer without expectation of reciprocation. When you make a habit of giving, the help you need seems to show up automatically just when you need it.
4. Make Appointments to Network
The Internet is 24/7. There may be some live chats or forums where people agree to attend during the same real time, but for the most part your networking is not going to be done concurrently. In other words, you’re likely to have conversations over a staggered period of time. In order to carve out the necessary time to catch up with online contacts, schedule networking on your calendar just as you would the business building breakfast organized by your traditional professional association.
5. Patience is THE Virtue
It takes time to build up a network, any network. It can be difficult at first to observe the effects of your diligent networking when you don’t see your new contacts out for drinks or in line at Starbucks. How will you know you’re making progress? The truth is networking is an art, not a science. It’s difficult to measure – online or off – how your efforts are paying off. But ask anyone who makes networking a regular part of their professional life and you’ll get a handful of anecdotes about the power of schmooze.