As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! Business networking has never been more important, whether it’s keeping in touch with old colleagues on linked in or finding new clients via Twitter or a good old fashioned networking event.
Just like a website with no backlinks will get no traffic, turning up at a networking event or following important people on social media will pull you no favours unless you know how to interact, or Network, to get results.
Here are my top ten tips for business networking in the virtual world as opposed to the real world
Top 10 Tips for Business Networking in the Virtual World
Introduce yourself properly.
When you meet someone in person, you’d introduce yourself with your full name. If you’re approaching someone via email, be sure to have your email signature completed to include any links back to your website, Twitter or Facebook page so that your new contact can check out who you are and what you do. Explain why you’re getting in touch, where you came across them and why you want to work with them. It can sometimes be harder to make a first impression in text than in person, so make sure the overall tone of your words are friendly and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Make sure your “About me” is complete
The “about me” page of a blog or website, or the short bio you can fill in on Twitter or Facebook have become like the “Elevator pitch” for the digital world. You only get a very small space to make your first impression so make sure it counts! If someone checks your profile and the bio is incomplete or not clear, it may be the difference between them replying to you and becoming a valuable contact, or blocking you as spam.
Be a good Listener
Some of the best networkers are also the best listeners. They have heard what everyone has to say, taken it all on board and used the information to give better advice, be more interesting and in the process show themselves to be selfless. Listening online is more about reading whar others are saying, so read a lot of blogs, industry press and comments, then comment back, share what you’ve learned and acknowledge other people’s work and opinions. Remember, networking is two ways, and by listening to other people you’re proving that it’s not “all about me”!
Be aware of your Image
Online it can sometimes be hard to identify who the real person is behind the screen. The best way to build trust in others is simply to be genuine, honest and above all, be yourself. Let people see what you look like by adding a photo to your profile, and try and keep the same or similar style across all of your online sites. Develop a style that reflects both you and your business image, and shows you as professional, trustworthy and approachable. It helps to show your followers that they are in fact dealing with the same person and that you are a real person!
An initial email, wall post or Tweet from someone is a great start, but that’s not a relationship. Follow up any contact you have, whether it’s replying to Tweets, answering questions, or commenting on blog posts.
It’s impossible to have eyes and ears everywhere, so if you can offer help to someone you meet online, then help them! We’ve had tips from people about how to fix the layout on our blog, something we weren’t aware of as it looked fine in our browser. Likewise, if you know someone who can help someone else out, why not put them in touch?
Know when to move on
There’s no point flogging a dead Horse, and if you are not getting anything from a relationship it is time to move on. Likewise, if you think you’ve got a relationship going and then realise it is totally one sided, maybe it’s time to question whether you’re getting as much out of it as the other person.
Networking isn’t sales; it’s about building profitable relationships. You’ll find that if you use your social media profiles purely for sending out sales information and offers that you’ll struggle to build up any engagement at all.
Save any personal issues or complaints for your friends and family. To get the most out of networking you need to focus on what you’re there for, and that is to make beneficial business contacts.
Be Open Minded.
Even if you work in a small local business, don’t shut yourself off from the world. Through our online business, we’ve been introduced to countless other people all over the world who we wouldn’t have had the privilege of working with had we just concentrated on our area. These relationships may not be profitable in a financial sense, but even so can be invaluable for business, providing helpful, non competitive advice from the other side of the world whilst proving that your work is credible enough to be acknowledged and admired by strangers – and who doesn’t need that once in a while!
What are you best business networking tips for the virtual world?