Networking and connecting with people online is a little different than networking at a local community or business event. For one thing, online we don’t have all of the communication tools that we have when we are networking in person. When you are networking in person, you have many more of your senses that are involved in the discussion. First we have our ears (hopefully are using them more than our mouth, but that’s an entirely different topic). We also bring our sight, touch and possibly even smell. When networking in person we rely on all of these to form an opinion about the other person and decide if we like them and trust them to take the conversation any further. When networking in person we see the individual, so first impressions (and therefore your appearance) are vital. Often decisions are made before anyone even starts the conversation. Second we have touch in the form of a strong, firm handshake that communicates our level of confidence. And hopefully we don’t provide too much fragrance, either bad or strong perfume, which might offend someone.
Online we are limited to what we read for the most part but that is changing a little with podcasts and videos. Before you start to introduce yourself online, a separate set of guidelines will leave a lasting positive impression for your viewers. Also keep in mind that it often takes a little longer to establish the relationship and trust online because we are working with fewer senses in our communications. Here are a few tips to help you with your online networking.
1. When you are filling out profiles on networks, make sure you always write them in first person. The only time you should write a profile in third person is when it’s on a company website that has more than one employee.
2. Let people know who you are. Write in a conversation style that is upbeat and engaging. Because you aren’t talking to them, you want them to get a feel for who you truly are, therefore, write it like you would say it if you were actually talking in person.
3. We know you want to sell yourself on networks, but try giving them something as well. Helping another member out that has a questions is a great method. Offer your opinions, experience or advice but don’t come off as arrogant. Let people know you offer a free consultation, or an opportunity for you to review a piece of their work. Using this strategy with clients and potential partners will allow a better networking opportunity that will benefit everyone.
4. When you are joining forums or discussion groups, ensure you read about them first. Make sure you understand the type of people that are participating. You don’t want to jump in and introduce yourself if you don’t plan on staying or coming back later! When you do decide to participate, introduce yourself: make it upbeat, talk about business (no sales pitch), tell a story, invite people to respond, and most importantly, affirm your commitment to participate. Often forums are formed to assist people and if you can help people with your knowledge, over time trust will develop. Also make sure that you follow the format and guidelines for the group. If the purpose of the group was to talk about a hobby and you are always talking business, it is going to hurt you.
5. After joining any type of discussion, make sure you don’t talk too much. If multiple people are talking or responding to you, keep in mind the comments and sum up a thoughtful and reflective response that will respond to most of them. Try not to engage in more than two or three conversations.
6. Be sure to follow up when a friend introduces you to someone else. This maintains a trusting and credible relationship with your friend and also allows you to network into new circles of contacts.
7. If the site has the opportunity for you to post a picture, do so but remember that your photos matter. Try and keep them professional and impressionable. This will help in forming positive first impressions.
Keep in mind these helpful hints and tips for introducing yourself properly on the internet. And most importantly, try and introduce yourself and start a conversation before you ask someone to be a contact, because a contact without a relationship really doesn’t have much value.
Now that you’re completely ready to introduce yourself. Go ahead and make your first attempt. Get on the CFBE Network Basic Level Forums, and strike up a conversation! We have created a forum to allow you to introduce yourself and what you do to the other members.