While anyone with a computer or phone can access social media sites, getting results from online networking takes forethought.
Consider your personal and time management preferences. Do you like computer-based interactions? Do you enjoy spending time online? How much time can you realistically devote to intentional networking? If online living isn’t your thing, that’s okay. There is no right or wrong, just degrees of preference.
Online networking is a means to an end
A little time online can be leveraged to great effect when you use that time for connecting with new contacts or doing follow-up with people you have already met. As I talk about in my book, Networking Like a Pro 2nd Edition, it is important to determine in advance how many hours per day or week you are truly willing to devote to online networking.
How do you prefer to use that time?
- Keeping your profiles updated
- Contributing to discussions in online groups
- Posting to your blog
- Reading and responding to comments
- Which online networking platforms are best for you?
Pick the ones where your target market hangs out and is active. This will ensure that you are connecting with the people who are potential clients and customers. As with any kind of business networking, your objective is to develop social capital.
Your online interactions
Learn the difference between interactions that move you and your online community members toward productive relationship building, and those that simply suck time and energy.
If someone asks a question that you can answer, that is an opportunity to be helpful while displaying your knowledge. You can build professional credibility by sharing information about your expertise without giving a sales pitch. Be careful, though, when comments veer into opinion; an offhand remark may go viral and result in unintended consequences.
Will your investment of time, energy and caring on behalf of other networkers be reciprocated in ways that you find meaningful? Only you can define what meaningful means to you, and only you can decide whether your interactions and time investment are productive.
No matter how many sites you are active on, be very clear with yourself – and with others – about your motives and goals. Stay positive, informative, and value oriented. When done right, with proper respect and consistency, social media can be a legitimate tool in branding and raising the awareness people have of you in the business community.