4 Apr 2016, 10:12 — 9 min read
In my last article about tips on networking, I shared how people should conduct themselves at networking events.
Today, networking has also become virtual. We have several portals, such as GlobalLinker, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, where one can establish contacts with anyone around the world. Distances do not matter anymore. There is no need for introductions by a common friend. With just a few mouse clicks, one can get connected to someone.
In this article I would like to highlight some online networking tips that may be beneficial to your business.
Let me start with a simple question. Why does one have to network? The answer is simple. Networking is essential for entrepreneurs aspiring to grow their business. Networking is vital for those who seek to share and improve their knowledge.
Even if the Internet and World Wide Web may not have penetrated to every corner of our country - according to a report, 65% of those who have access to the Internet are active on social media. It looks like a professional must have a LinkedIn account for sure, even if he does not have an Aadhar card!
A controversial discussion on a social media platform can attract a thousand dislikes immediately and no one can remain anonymous anymore. In these days of e-commerce where more business is done over the Internet, the manner in which one conducts oneself in social media will directly reflect on the business.
Online networking can be split into two parts - social networking and business networking. When I say ‘social networking’ I refer to activities such as sharing of photographs, videos, personal anecdotes etc. Business networking helps in business growth, mainly for business development & knowledge sharing. Professional networking helps in seeking career advice etc. In social networking, one may or may not provide all information about one’s personal profile. Sometimes it is not desirable too.
Online business networking does have certain etiquettes that must be adhered to. Here are a few tips based on my own experiences and research.
Tip 1: Is your profile up-to-date?
Post as much professional information about yourself, your career, and your achievements. If you are the owner of a business, write about your organisation, its goals, products and services as well.
It will do well to post a professional profile picture. A photograph clicked while on a holiday in Miami, does not go well in a professional networking site! I have seen people adding personal nick names in their professional site.
It may be a good idea to include a video message about your organisation or yourself too.
GlobalLinker is a great forum for SMEs to build their network. Here is an interesting article on how you can optimise your experience on GlobalLinker by updating your profile.
Tip 2: Is your profile kept updated on-time?
Growth is inevitable and that is what every entrepreneur will aspire for. Correspondingly your profiles on all the networking sites must also be updated. Information about recent awards won, new products introduced etc. make it more interesting to read rather than a narration of how you started your career.
Tip 3: Do not mix your personal profile and business profile
Sometimes people tend to write about their personal hobbies, family and so on, while also talking about their organisation. Somehow, in my opinion, mixing the two can be confusing, as the seriousness in business networking gets diluted. It is always better to have two different profiles.
Tip 4: Be clear about your expectations
A specific ‘ASK’ is an important networking tip. You may find spending more time corresponding with many who may never need your business but were connected just because you clicked the wrong button! It may be better to add the types of profilesyou are looking forward to be connected to. For example: we sell software for retirement communities and would seek connections with the managers of retirement communities.
The ‘We Offer’ & ‘We Seek’ filter on GlobalLinker at the time of profile creation makes the search for related business links much easier. Here are some tips for you to expand your network on GlobalLinker.
Tip 5: Share your experiences
If you are a senior person with loads of experiences, share some of these with others. Write information that could be of value to those who are rising up their career ladder. They will always remember you. If you have the habit of writing blogs, perhaps you can share those links.
You may contribute articles on GlobalLinker and share knowledge about your area of expertise as well as participate in discussions on this forum.
Tip 6: Paid or free?
Business networking sites offer free and paid options. I prefer to opt for a paid option, as I will then tend to take it more seriously and grow my network. It may be useful perhaps to sign up for free for a while, test it out, see what type of connections are being made and then decide. However, the exception to this rule is GlobalLinker, where creating an account is absolutely free. Moreover, on this forum SMEs can benefit from a range of modules that will help them manage their business better, increase their networking opportunities exponentially and gain from special deals & privileges...at no cost at all!
Tip 7: Givers Gain!
Ensure your interactions on business networking sites are always professional. A specific ‘ask’ is good, as I mentioned earlier. Even better is enquiring - ‘How can I help’! Trust among unseen connections grows better this way.
Tip 8: Don’t get connected just because someone sent you a request
One may get a thousand likes on Facebook, but a thousand connections on a business networking site, may keep you engaged all day long instead of letting you focus on your business. Networking with a ‘specific ask’ is always better rather than just exchanging pleasantries.
Tip 9: No gossip please!
Do not write anything that you may have just heard and do not have proof to substantiate. Never write badly about another person or company even if you may have some grouse about them. Gossiping is always bad weather in networking or in a person. Never use harsh language or slangs that may hurt others. Remember you are projecting not only your image but also your company’s image across the world.
Tip 10: Make sure what you write is not gibberish
It is not necessary to respond to a posting, almost immediately. Draft your replies in a calm mood, check what you have written and then post them. Sometimes you may find what you have written is in direct contradiction to what you thought, just because you were tired.
Always check for correct grammar, English, spelling and content length.
Tip 11: What about Emails?
Online networking need not be always be via some social media platform. One may also rely emails.
Remember that etiquettes in email correspondence is another subject. Don’t forget:
Tip 12: Be graceful in exit
There may be occasions when someone wishes to be disconnected from your network. Thank them for being your friend and write good words about them and the experiences you had in the connection.
Likewise, you may like to be disconnected from someone, whom you may find offensive or not so friendly. Inform them about your inability to continue. No need to write about your grievances here.
Remember, the Internet is also called the World Wide Web and extends to unknown corners of our world! One Google search can list out all your information.
What I have summarised here is nothing new. Lots of literature on this topic is available freely online. Do keep this article as a checklist for your business use.
Posted bySridhar Narayanaswamy
Managing partner of Innovatus Systems, founded by him on January 1, 2013. Sridhar is a result oriented professional with over four decades in the Information Technology &...