These days, people have two lives: offline and online. Being visible to your social network physically and virtually opens the door to innumerable opportunities. A single person, even someone you barely know, can change the trajectory of your career or life.
Developing a strong personal and professional network takes commitment and dedication, which is tough because our lives are already busy with daily work, family, and friends (and maybe time for ourselves too!). But - a little goes a long way. The key is consistency and quality.
Many people are still unsure about how this whole online networking thing works. They don't know what to do or how to get value from it. In actuality, networking online isn't much different than the offline networking you engage in throughout your daily activities:
Example of Offline Networking
Imagine this: When you go to the grocery store, you often see the same person walking the aisles. You continually cross paths at your favorite foods. At first, you nod and smile and go on your merry way.
Soon, you start to recognize the person - their face, body type, style, gate. As they walk toward you, you begin to prepare for the interaction: it becomes difficult to ignore the fact that you almost know each other, even though you've never talked. Inevitably, you start making small talk and sharing ideas about food, recipes, or what's happening in your community.
The door to a more meaningful relationship has opened! You may or may not walk through that door, but it's there.
Example of Online Networking
Now imagine this: When you go on one of your favorite social media platforms, you often see the same person sharing interesting articles, commenting, and intelligently contributing to online discussions. You're both interested in the same type of information and stories and continually cross paths online. At first, you don't take much notice.
Soon, you start to recognize the person's image and name. It's easy to get to know them from afar - their online profile, shares, and comments speak volumes. It becomes clear that you have a shared network, interests, and philosophies. Even though you've never spoken one-to-one before, you begin to feel like you know them.
The door to a more meaningful relationship has opened! You might never take the relationship any further, but even so, that person is top of mind. If you, or anyone you know, ever has a need for the types of products, services or skills that person represents, they'll be first on the list to call or recommend.
4 Tips to Be a Better Online Networker
It goes without saying that if you want to enhance your online network, you need to interact with people. Here are 4 tips to increase your visibility and value online:
Know your network: You should have an idea of the types of people you want to have in your network. For example, if you sell makeup locally, you should connect with local women. Or if you sell HR technology, you should connect with HR folks.
Share and comment on relevant articles: As you're surfing the Net, pay attention to articles or information that your network might be interested in. When you find something good, share and/or comment on it. Here's how to do that on LinkedIn. The sharing and commenting process is pretty much the same across all social networks.
Write your own articles: If you really want to stand out and become a thought leader in your industry, write articles yourself. Here are 8 tips for writing good blog articles.
Create and share other types of content: Blog articles are just the tip of the iceberg on the path to thought leadership. Creating more in-depth, content-rich material can really help you stand out. Check out these examples of types of content to consider.
For most people, tips one and two are fairly straight forward and simple, and will go a long way towards building up your professional (or personal) network. But if you're a company looking to build a brand, all four online networking tips can increase brand recognition, trust, and credibility.