Connecting with smart people in the same industry and other industries can be very intellectually and financially rewarding. The synergy and the dynamism that occurs when likeminded individuals collaborate, brainstorm and discuss ideas online can be fascinating. In the past, this was only possible via conferences, workshops, trade fairs, and seminars.
Nowadays, you can network with people from all over the world online. You can exchange ideas, tap from their niche knowledge and share your own expertise, all within a short time. However, networking online isn’t just about joining a social media website like most people do. To reap the fruits of the platform called the internet, you need to know how and where to find people with whom you’ll be able to have a mutually rewarding business relationship. The following ways should help get you on the right track.
Make an Impression and Build Rapport
I know you’ve probably heard this many times, but the truth is there’s nothing quite like making an impression online. What many people typically do in the name of networking online is try to sell others without any regard for their person or time. For many people, the typical intro goes like this: Hi Jones, my name is John Doe and I’m the SVP of XYZ Corporation. Then they go on to sell you on the many merits of what they do and how they might be able to help your business.
Far as I’m concerned, that’s not okay. Imagine for instance, that you were in a conference with other dynamic and driven individuals, would you instantly try to sell people you just met? Probably not! You’d probably want to try to build some rapport with them, get to know them and along the line, see if you could collaborate. That’s what you should do online. Rapport, Friendliness and Helpfulness (RFH) should be your watchword online.
Find a Professional Social Networking Site
Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have probably heard of LinkedIn. For most professionals, this is just about the only social network they have time for. And even then, it’s nothing more than a virtual CV or resume for most professionals. The truth is LinkedIn is not just a network where you list your qualifications and areas of expertise.
There are groups where you can participate to get noticed. Apart from that, the other way you can get noticed is either by inventing something new or turning a company on verge of bankruptcy around. That said, LinkedIn is not the only professional social network out there. There’s also Xing, BizWhiz, and BizNik. Join and find even more professionals to network with.
Be a Resource Person Online
Here’s the thing about networking online: only those who inform, educate, serve and help others truly benefit from those efforts and relationships. As a rule, make this your focus when networking with people. No one likes the guy who wants something from you the moment he meets you. The guy who is useful and resourceful on the hand, is always welcome and appreciated. Deliver value and never fail to incite conversations and proffer solutions.
Reconnect With People Offline
The internet is great for meeting new people but what keeps that relationship going is connecting with those same people offline. If you’re in the same area or state with some of them, offer to buy them a cup of coffee or a beer –depends on your inclination- and connect with them in person.
But if they’re quite far away from you and you happen to visiting their locale, ask to meet up. Most times, people will be willing to meet; unless it’s completely inconvenient. This goes a long way in cementing and fostering your online alliances. Also, be sure to keep your personality consistent (this is why your conversations and activities need to be genuine) online and offline.
Amit Gangrade is from Orlando, Florida. He is a recent alumn from the University of Florida, where he studied anthropology and Spanish, and will be attending law school at Emory University in the fall of 2014. Amit is a freelance writer who is currently employed by FindAFax.