The business world is split into two camps, between those who think online networking is a waste of time and those who have fully embraced it. One side is missing out on business potential, but many on the other side could be wasting a lot of effort.
Iggy Pintado is an “open networker”. That means he forms as many connections online as possible, believing that the bigger the network the more opportunities that will emerge. He says networking online is far more effective than the face to face variety.
Cliff Rosenberg, the Australian CEO of Linked-In, says his site provides a channel for five million Australians to display their expertise and build contacts. Toby Marshall sees it as a great resource, provided you are focused in your message. He says you need to identify your niche and define it clearly in your online profile and messaging. That way you’ll be found by people interested in your specialism, rather than lost in the crowd.
Gill Kelly has a name for this need for a clear definition of who you are and what you do — she calls it your “personal brand”. When people meet you in-person, they quickly get an understanding of your personality and what you stand-for. Online you need to work a bit harder to ensure that this profile shines through.
One tool many use to showcase their expertise is Twitter. Renai LeMay says if you stay on-topic you can help raise the search profile of you or your company.
But how do you know all this hard work is paying off? Azeem Azhar explains how his product, Peer Index, can assess your online standing in a variety of areas of expertise. Tools like this will ultimately change how we find information online — when we look for opinion, we’ll want to ensure it comes from someone with credibility. That credibility can be assessed by how many other people follow this expert, and how credible those followers are themselves.
So, you can see, there’s no escaping online networking. That said, you still need to be seen at industry functions, and you need to be able to work the room. Don Gabor says when you do that it’s important you don’t rush the small talk — that’s where you get your cues for a more beneficial business discussion. And, Steve Herzberg adds that successful networkers give more than they get — helping others out buildings lasting relationships, which is the reason you network in the first place.