Today networking takes place as much, if not more, online as off. You can build an extensive and valuable network of business contacts ranging from suppliers to customers all while sitting at your desk. Navigating this new world of networking is a bit tricky at first, but it’s well worth the effort for the payoff.
Choose Your Networks Wisely
There are many social networks that are effective for business networking, but you’ll get the best results by focusing on the few that are best-suited to your needs. If you use too many networks, you’ll find that your divided attentions aren’t maximizing your results with any of them. LinkedIn is one of the most popular options for professional networking. Facebook and Twitter work for professional networking as well, though they’re not designed exclusively for this purpose so you’ll have to tailor your efforts carefully to your goals. You can do this by pinpointing what companies or brands you are interested in personally and be active on their Twitter feeds or Facebook walls. LinkedIn is a bit more personal because, instead of finding the business as a whole, you connect with individual people within their network. Be careful with this though, if you send too many contact requests to people who don’t know you, LinkedIn may suspend your account for being a spammer. Make sure to start off connecting with people you know and asking them to connect you with other people and so on. This will build yourself a huge network of people to network with.
APsense.com is designed for small businesses. Apsense allows business owners to connect with other people to help grow their business. They do this by allowing you to “networking, explore and create quality business content.” Etsy is a vibrant network for people to sell their handmade goods. Many people use Pinterest as a means of networking their Etsy shop. There are blogs and forums for every interest and industry you could imagine. Find the best network for your needs and you’ll gain access to a whole community of like-minded people.
Maintain Your Profile
Always take the time to complete your social network profiles. Provide samples of your work, links to your blog or webpage. Adding ample information about your skills and professional background is also a great way to gain attention. Your profile is your introduction to new contacts and you want it to present a complete picture that highlights all your most important assets. Build yourself up and update your profile often so it’s never outdated.
Stay Active Online
Even the best networking site is useless if you don’t sign in often. Make sure you have access to a reliable Internet provider so you’re never unavailable for extended periods of time. LinkedIn requires less maintenance than other options, while Facebook and Twitter really need regular updating. The more active you are on Twitter and Facebook the better. Being active on these sites keeps your name and face in the minds of people you are networking to. Blogs and forums offer many networking opportunities as well when you comment and interact often.
Give and Take Equally
When you’re networking online, it’s essential that the flow of information go both ways. If you want others to answer your questions, take the time to share your own knowledge as well. Comment on blogs similar to your own and the blogger is likely to visit your page and comment back. Many bloggers have a blog roll listed on their site. A blog roll is a list of blogs or sites that particular blogger enjoys. If you establish a good relationship with a blogger you can get added to their blog roll or have the blogger endorse you on their site and you can do the same for them. The same is true for Facebook and Twitter. If you’re not proactively interacting with others, you can’t expect all the action to just come to you.
Practice Proper Etiquette
Always keep up a professional and courteous demeanor when you’re using the Internet for professional networking purposes. Type the same way you would speak in a business setting. Use proper grammar and spelling and speak respectfully. Avoid slang and text-speak when possible. Though some abbreviations are necessary on Twitter, keep these to a minimum so your readers don’t need a teenager to translate your content. Nothing loses a readers interest faster than bad grammar, especially those with a professional background. When contributing, strive to offer valuable comments that go beyond “I agree!” and actually explain your viewpoint. The more in depth you go, the greater response you will receive. In return people will gain a good perspective of you and that is essential when portraying yourself online.
Maintaining an active presence on a few select sites will help you build a strong professional network online that can yield endless opportunities for growth and expansion.
Abigail Clark is an upcoming freelance writer. She graduated from The University of South Florida with a bachelors in marketing, minoring in journalism. When she isn’t up to her neck in coupons she is enjoying the outdoors fishing. She loves doing reviews for technology, home products and beauty products. If you would like her to do a review for you look her up on twitter.