At the end of the day, people only do business with those they feel comfortable with, those they like and those they trust. Your network can open many doors of opportunity for you and your business, or it can be your worst nightmare. Having an online professional network is vital in today’s market especially if you are looking to connect with people who aren’t in your regional district. Throughout my growing career, most of my opportunities have derived from online connections with people and businesses whom I have networked with and built an outstanding reputation with. Here are a few tips on how to seamlessly build your network online while mixing your business background with your personal life.
1. Do Your Research. When searching for online connections, be mindful of who’s who. Before you just go following people on social media, or connecting with them on professional networks, you should really dig deep and to find out as much about a person as you can before ‘pursuing them online.’ Why? Well it helps if you are familiar with the person and also because you want to see if you need them if the first place. The last thing you want to do is waste someone’s time!
As you find out who these individuals are, you shouldn’t rush to follow them on any social media networks, instead monitor their online presence for a while just so that you can see what their daily professional lives consist of, and you will know if that’s someone you would like to move forward ‘rubbing elbows’ with.
2. Be Mindful of What You Post. As cliche` as it sounds, you really have to be careful of what you post online, because once it’s out there, it’s there forever. Picture it like this: just as you are ‘online stalking’ the people you look up to, they may be looking at you, too. You wouldn’t want to be ashamed of what someone you are trying to impress sees.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a bore on social media. You can still be your outgoing-self but be sure not to be any of these things: overly opinionated, inappropriate, or obnoxious. Have well-balanced social media accounts that show you are outgoing, social but still very ambitious and business savvy.
3. Open The Door For Opportunity. The worst you could possibly hear is, “No!” If there is someone you have been researching online and you’ve found a point of contact for that person, go for it! Be sure that you have something to offer, because nothing is free and busy people don’t want to waste their time on you.
4. Be Intentional. I believe the only true way to network with someone is if you are really interested in building a bond with that person. That means, if you are only using them to get ahead, it won’t work. In order to build your network, you have to really consider what you can offer that person, and in return what can you gain from them and their networks. After all, the bond you build with your network will be a constant exchange, and that can’t be done with people you don’t want to deal with long term.
5. Think Long-Term. Connections may open doors, but relationships close deals. Always look to build a lasting relationship with those in your network, this means you must build trust and they must believe in you. Networking isn’t just connecting with someone on social media or exchanging business cards. It’s about creating long lasting relationships with colleagues that can always count on you. Make yourself needed and always keep in touch with those you are connected to. You don’t want to be the person who only comes around when they want or need something.