Networking is one of the most important ways to invest in the future of your career, but it can also be pretty difficult. Not only do you have to find the right opportunities to network, but you also need to find the courage to speak to the people you want to impress.
The good news for introverts and busy business leaders is that there are various ways you can start networking today without having to attend expensive events and dinners.
Online networking can be an excellent way to build a valuable community, without the stress that typically comes with in-person networking events.
Of course, just like all forms of networking, you’re still going to need an effective strategy. Keep these tips in mind for effective online networking.
Decide Where to Network
Probably the most important part of building a successful online networking strategy is deciding where you’re going to connect with potential peers.
Social media channels like LinkedIn are generally a good place to start, but you can also go further and check out places like Slack groups and forums specifically for your chosen industry. You can also find a lot of great people to connect with on places like Twitter.
Keep your eyes open for digital and virtual events too. Since the start of the pandemic, these are becoming increasingly popular, and they often come with chat rooms and networking spaces where you can reach out to others with shared interests.
Connect with the Right People
As tempting as it might be to build a relationship with influencers or thought leaders, the reality is that it’s important to think carefully about who you reach out to.
Look for industry peers and people who can teach you something.
Connecting with people who already have a strong presence in your industry or a link to the businesses you want to work with can be a good idea too.
Keep an open mind when making your relationships online. You might be surprised to discover who can make a difference in your future career. If someone offers to introduce you to someone they think could help you, take advantage.
Connect with people in your community.
Even if your business is entirely online, people still enjoy supporting businesses in their local community. Use online channels to connect with people who are in your industry AND in your area so you can build up a local presence as well as an online presence. This can also be an effective way to get your foot in the door of a new industry or new business venture.
When you’re starting out in networking, schedule a few hours every week where you can check out what’s happening on social media, read up on the content shared on your favorite forums, and participate in conversations.
You’ll want to have an active online presence if you want to make those connections count.
Remember to check your news feed on a daily basis when you can, and at the very least try to update your LinkedIn status with a few relevant factoids or links to relevant news stories from your industry.
The more people see you online, the more likely it is they’ll feel connected to you and want to strike up a conversation.
Follow Up Regularly
If you’re going to really grow a successful network online, you need to work harder at making connections than offline. You can’t expect to have the same emotional link to someone online as you do in person, so you’re going to need to speak to the people you meet more often.
Make a habit of regularly getting online and devoting time to following up with the people you’ve already met.
If you’ve already spoken to someone on social media quite a few times and you want to strengthen the relationship, ask them to connect over the phone or meet with you via a video conference.
The more connections you can make, the better.
Be Helpful and Informative
The more you invest in networking, the more you’ll learn that people want to connect with others whom they believe can help them out. The more informative, helpful, and knowledgeable you are, the more valuable you become.
This doesn’t mean you should be constantly asking your contacts if you can do anything for them, but make a concerted effort to share useful information whenever you can.
On LinkedIn, you can write posts where you talk about your experiences in the industry. On forums, you can respond to questions being asked by other people in your space.
It’s also worth looking for ways to be helpful in other ways too, like responding to emails where people ask for your input or getting involved with podcasts and interviews.
Keep Working on It
You won’t always be an instant success when you start networking with your peers. It might take a while for people to respond to you, and some might ignore you completely.
The key to success, as in most things, is to keep working.
Don’t let it get you down if you struggle with building your network initially. Keep focusing on your goals and practicing.
Over time, you’ll learn how to become more effective at building relationships. What’s more, those relationships will help you to achieve your goals in your career.