Networking has always been an essential activity for anyone who’s interested in career or business development. After all, business is a social endeavor, even if it’s transactional in nature. Businesses simply can’t subsist without people and their connections to each other, and most jobs are secured through networking (and not online applications).
Traditionally, networking took place solely in face-to-face settings—at industry trade shows, happy hours for professionals, and professional associations’ events. But in our modern times, online networking has somewhat replaced traditional networking, and that’s only been made more prevalent by the coronavirus pandemic and size restrictions on group gatherings.
For some, online networking comes naturally, but others it may be completely foreign. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your online networking experience.
Always Add Value
The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.
Whether it’s in person or online, the goal of networking isn’t for you to get something from others (a new client, new business, new job, etc.). Sure, that’s the ultimate outcome you probably want to see, but in order to get to that point, you need to think about—and generously offer—something of value. This could be an asset you own that you’re willing to share, a skill that you can apply, or even a connection to another person. Whatever it is, think about what your assets and strengths are, and be ready to share them with others.
Choose the Right Platforms
There are a large number of social networking platforms, and you’re probably familiar already with the biggest—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are important platforms for meeting new people, but it might be worthwhile investigating and joining either professional groups on these platforms or even private networks managed by industry associations. The thing is that joining too many platforms can be a huge time suck, so it might be worthwhile to focus on the ones that will help you meet the right people (see below). Otherwise, you could be wasting a lot of time without getting a lot of results.
Avoid Being Spammy
Similar to the point about adding value, it’s essential not to be spammy with any interactions you have. Even if it’s something you’re offering for free to add value, people aren’t idiots and will instantly see your offer as fake and/or spammy.
Instead, work to start and participate in conversations. The best way to approach this is to ask people about themselves—what their interests are, what they’re favorite places, activities, etc. People tend to gravitate to others who show interest in them, so it’s also important to show genuine enthusiasm for their responses. Additionally, try to find common ground with the people you meet. If they like Mexican food, for example, share some recipes you’ve tried or see if they’ve eaten at a particular restaurant in town. If not—it could be an opportunity to meet face-to-face and get to know each other better (following proper social distancing guidelines, of course).
Connect with the Right People
This is possibly the most important part of networking, especially if you’re doing it online. There’s just so many people who you can connect with, but that doesn’t mean you should connect with them. Generally speaking, it’s best to connect to and interact with people who you can help (remember, you’re trying to add value to what they’re doing). Identifying those people can be difficult, though. It might take some time to get to know people, so knowing if they’re someone who you can help may not be completely obvious.
This is one reason why algorithmically-driven networking can be so effective, such as what Zenvoy offers corporations, associations, trade publishers, and events. By using artificial intelligence to drive introductions based on criteria set by the organization, there is a much higher likelihood that connections will become something that’s meaningful and mutually beneficial. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how Zenvoy’s online networking platform for organizations build bonds and value.