Oct 13, 2021

Have You Been Online Networking All Wrong?

You’ve probably heard that networking is the cornerstone when it comes to building strong and valuable professional connections. And we bet you’ve attended tons of networking events or taken courses or attended workshops to improve your networking skills. But did you know that there’s a right and wrong way when it comes to online networking?

Before you go into panic mode, stop! We’ve got your back and we’re going to take you through why it is important to network, how to improve your online networking skills and what not to do when it comes to networking!

Why is it important to network?

Whether you work for yourself or for someone else, if you’re not actively building your networking skills, you’re not growing your career. Making new and meaningful connections in today’s world can go a long way in growing your business. This is where the importance of networking comes in. Networking skills are as important as having good communication or social skills, and it adds value to both your personal and professional environments.

When you’re attempting to build your online network there are 3 most important mantras to keep in mind:

1) Be helpful

2) Stay genuine

3) Be resourceful

How to improve your online networking skills

Gone are the days where you had to attend a networking event in person or by talking to someone on the phone. There are multiple online avenues that you can access to build your professional network, but there is a right and wrong way to go about online networking. We’ve all come across that email or LinkedIn messages that made us a cringe a little. Or sometimes, a LinkedIn request with no message at all!

Let’s take a look at some of the don’ts and dos of online networking:

1) Don’t send LinkedIn requests without a message:

If you’re sending a LinkedIn connection request to someone you have not previously connected or interacted with, please remember to include a custom message with your request. And don’t send a generic or high-level message like, “I would love to learn more about your career”.

Do: Get into specifics, talk about a presentation or a post that your would-be connection had made. Take this message for example, “Hi Rob, I’m Kobe and I had attended your session at the XYZ Workshop and thought that your presentation was fantastic. If you have sometime in the coming weeks, I would love to connect with you and ask some follow-up questions”

2) Don’t connect with someone only to ask for a favor

We understand that the point of networking is to establish strong professional networks and get your name recognized by the influencers in the company. Making a new connection and then immediately going to ask them for a favor is an absolute faux pas! So, what do you do instead?

Do: Build relationships first and avoid going straight into the request. Do your research and then build strong, meaningful connections that are based on genuine motives. The bottom-line is to create authentic relationships and not have a hidden agenda behind making those connections.

3) Don’t neglect to offer help when it is needed

We all get busy sometimes and tend to brush off messages asking for help. But remember that networking works both ways! By not responding to any messages, your contacts may tend to believe that you’re in it for your own gain.

Do: Respond however you can and help in any way possible. This does not mean that you have work yourself to the bone and go totally out of your way to help someone, but if you’re able to help a contact within the scope of your knowledge and capability, please do. Offer to share their posts or have a brainstorming session if they’re stuck for ideas.

4) Don’t forget to follow up

So, you’ve made your connections online, or in person, great job! But are you staying in touch with them and checking in occasionally? If the answer is no, then you’re going about networking in the wrong way! Never following up or reaching back out to your connections makes you seem like someone who’s just collecting names for when you need to use them.

Do: Keep in touch! It’s not that hard, you can share relevant industry information with your contacts which might be of interest to them and help them keep up with their industry news. You could invite them for online networking events and keep in touch so that your name is on top of their mind.

5) Don’t reject a connection based on their status

For example, you receive a connection request from someone, and you see that they’re not as experienced as you would like or that they may not have any hiring decision capabilities. You may decide that it’s not worth your time to make those connections as they may not have a lot to offer you. This is the wrong way to go about it. It’s not only selfish, but it also indicates that you don’t realize the importance of building a diverse network. Networking isn’t about what you can get from someone else, it’s also about the value you can add to someone else’s career or network.

Do: Add people despite what it says on their designation title. Don’t disregard a connection only based on their job title, function or their level of decision making. They may be an asset later when it comes to helping you form the right connections.

Don’t keep score and be willing to connect, give, share, and treat your connection as a friend instead of merely a steppingstone onto your next venture.

Any skill needs honing before you can master it, and the same goes for your online networking skills. Remember that the more you network, the better you become at it. In a world where it’s all about taking, being able to show that you genuinely care enough to interact with someone as a friend will make you a memorable contact to your network connections.