Online Networking 5 Steps to 247 Connections
By: Aaron Nielsenshultz
As business owners, we all know the value of networking. You make contacts, meet potential clients, and generally expand your sphere of influence. The great thing about this day and age is that networking is no longer confined to physical space. With online networking, you can connect with people around the world easily and quickly.
What can you get from online networking?
A sense of community
Small business owners sometimes feel isolated. With an online group, you can visit any time.
Just like with face-to-face networking, online networking brings you a wealth of potential partners.
As you get to know your network, you can share referrals, thus expanding your potential client base.
People who see your profile online may hire you, especially if they've gotten a good sense for who you are and feel they can trust you.
Answers to questions
Have a question about something? Just ask your online network. You'll get lots of answers and opinions.
Members of several of the networking sites we belong to share business tips regularly.
In our experience, introverts especially appreciate online networking as it frees them from social anxiety and gives them the time they prefer to think through what they say?or write?first. Extroverts, too, like it as it gives them a 24/7 source of contacts in a potentially lonely or boring one-person office.
There are several online networking sites available. Some offer forums or groups so members can participate in group discussions. Others provide links or connections between members so you can explore your connections' contacts and thereby expand your own network.
To utilize?yes, utilize?online networking, it's important that you know the rules for being a good netizen. And you won't be utilizing the online world if you're working at sites or in communities that aren't giving you what you need: A dynamic place where you can be a contributing member of a positive community. That's the ideal, so how do you get there? We're glad you asked!
1. Lurk first
Aaron read once that for every person on a networking board who posts, there are upwards of ten people who never post. Those people are lurking, and if that conjures images of someone skulking about in the shadows trying not to be seen, it should.
But unlike lurking in real life, board lurking is a good thing. By lurking you can find out all kinds of useful information. You can find out: who posts the most; when the board generates the most traffic; how people speak to each other; who the posters are. If you spend some time lurking, you'll get a feel for the community and posters that frequent that board.
2. Know who you are
As you're getting ready to start posting on your new boards, keep in mind the old internet rule of thumb: Don't say anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear. Remember that you're constructing a professional appearance for the online world, so keep all of your posts positive and professional.
3. Don't be afraid to share
Once you've gotten the pulse of the board, feel free to post! Remember, you're an expert in your field, so speak confidently. Tone is important online, so be careful that your confidence doesn't sound like inflexible pride. Forums and boards tend to be informal, so your writing doesn't need to be perfect?but it should always be good.
4. Don't be discouraged
If you post a thread or a reply, and no one speaks to you, don't be discouraged. Remember that there are many lurkers out there who've read what you've written. And just as you've been lurking, your fellow board members will want to see who you are and what you have to say. Over time, you'll get more and more responses from people.
5. Spend your energy well
If you find that a board has an extremely high turnover rate, or is more negative than positive, don't stay on it! With the first point, you're looking for a community, not a commuting board. If the board is negative, you'll be putting in too much energy for not enough return, and the temptation to join in the flame wars might get to be too much. You don't want to be part of that! (If you think it couldn't happen on your fun, friendly board, ask Aaron about the soda/pop flame war that he saw destroy a community?)
A good networking board can be a real gift. You'll find that you look forward to what your colleagues have to say, you'll get many returns and referrals out of it, and you'll find that the online community can be friendly and supportive. With just a little work and a little practice, you'll be part of it in no time!