Virtual Networking - 7 Ideas for Making Connections Online and Developing a Loyal Following

 


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The Internet has brought about many opportunities for us to network without leaving our office or our home. In fact, almost any form of Internet presence can offer opportunities to network. And the goal of Virtual Networking is to “get noticed, ” to meet people and to develop relationships on your own time and in your own space.

Look for groups where people you want to get to know “hang out. ” You can start by searching in your favorite search engine (such as Google or Yahoo) for your professional affiliation or business expertise and you may find more resources than you will ever be able to review. They can include associations, schools teaching your topic, online communities, competitors and colleagues, resource sites, job posting sites and publications. Here are a few other ideas for virtual networking sure to get you noticed:

a. Blogging – the ultimate networking tool. It is a great way to expand your social and business universe. You begin to establish yourself as an expert or a highly credible advocate of a subject matter you have knowledge of and/or experience with. Others begin to gravitate within your blog-o-sphere and you within theirs.

b. Forums and bulletin boards– Finding the right forums and sticking with them, “hanging out, ” and participating in the discussions, with the same people will, over time help you increase your sphere of influence. Be careful not to be too self-promotional when posting – in most cases it is not allowed and you will find yourself banned from participating. However, you can have a brief signature line with your name and company affiliation (and maybe a URL).

c. Chats – Many online communities offer chats on specific topics. Participating in membership-driven chats offer the best opportunities for good exchanges and forming professional relationships.

d. Join an online business or social networking community such as MeetUp, Ryze, Max-in-Common, Linkd In, Open BC, VNI (Virtual Networking International), to name a few, . These groups have subgroups made up of people with a specific focus and similar interests. Or you can join a non-specific group to gain more knowledge, exposure and contacts.

e. Give something of value away, online – The Idea Virus by Seth Godin sold more than a million copies because he gave the ebook away online, and allowed others to do the same by sending it to their own sphere of influence. He sold so many hard copies because people simply had to have their own. He has used this same strategy with each of his subsequent books, with similar results. Seth has met thousands (perhaps millions) of people this way. I know, cause I have contacted him and had a couple of great conversations. Free Works!

f. Find people to interview – The Women’s ECommerce Association, International (www.wire-sidechats.com) hosts 3-4 wire-side chats (teleconferences) monthly and interviews women from around the world. Members of the association are invited to attend and bring along friends to the events. They are highly interactive and many a good business deal has been created.

g. Host a radio program (or be a guest) - Very similar to the idea above except that the event is transmitted online either live or in an archived file to be heard later. Pat Lynch from Women’s Radio has met and interviewed women from around the world. She has helped promote these women on her websites and in her programming, her newsletter and in general conversation with others. I know, because I have been the beneficiary of her referrals. I have also been a guest on Webmasters Radio, By For and About women, Women’s Avenue and dozens of others. It’s a great way to meet the media and many people have contacted me and my website traffic has seen a significant increase after a program has aired.

Here are a few other tips for virtual networking success:

  • Be careful when posting the same message to several groups. Ask the moderator of each group for permission first otherwise you will be considered a “spammer, ” and be banned.

  • Keep your cool. If you become angered over a post, take a deep breath and consider your reputation before responding. If you must respond to a post in a negative manner, it might be wise to send an email directly to the source instead of for the “whole world” to read. I have seen moderators quit and reputations ruined because people lost their cool.

  • Don’t lurk. Lurking is hanging out, reading posts and never participating. Of course, not all discussions will be of interest to you, but if they are, make sure you respond. The only way to be a successful Virtual Networker is to get involved with the people and build relationships.

  • Be brief - keep your messages short and to the point. I have seen many a long post that could have been edited down to a short paragraph or a few sentences. Some people just like to see “see themselves speak. ”

  • Practice common courtesy, be polite and friendly. Be generous. If you have knowledge that could benefit the group, share it. Givers get more than takers.

    Virtual networking is a great way to extend your reach beyond your local community. The Internet offers all of us the opportunity to go international if we so desire. You can meet people around the corner or around the world. What better way to reach out and touch someone in the 21st Century than the Internet?

    © 2005 - Heidi Richards is the author of The PMS Principles, Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business and 7 other books. She is also the Founder & CEO of the Women’s ECommerce Association, International http://www.WECAI.org (pronounced wee-kī) – an Internet organization that “Helps Women Do Business on the WEB. ” Basic Membership is FREE. Ms. Richards can be reached at Heidi@speakingwithspirit.com or heidi@wecai.org .

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