Building a professional network is an essential part of business success. As our lives moved online almost overnight, online networking became even more important for our business survival and growth.
With a bit of investment of your time and energy, online networking can help you build your network and develop a social capital. But at the same time, if you’re not careful, it can stain your online reputation and damage your business relationships.
Here are some simple guidelines that will help you navigate social media with grace and eloquence, making your online business networking a success, not an unnecessary stress:
1. Maximise your presence on LinkedIn
When the pandemic struck and networking events were cancelled, business networking increasingly shifted to LinkedIn, the biggest professional social media platform in the world. LinkedIn is the right place to create your online professional ID and invest your time in valuable connections that will directly impact your net worth.
The first impression others have of you is based on how well you’ve filled out your profile. Considering it takes only 30 minutes to optimise it, it’s worth to take some time to add relevant keywords to your headline (as it is searchable by others), create an appealing summary and fill out the previous experience section. Don’t forget to point out your most significant achievements as they will help you get the best opportunities in the future.
When your profile shows you in the best light, you’re ready to start adding your new connections. The key is to make sure your connections are relevant – only add people relevant to your job and industry that you see yourself collaborating with in the future.
2. Engage, inform and educate
Networking is not just about adding connections but more importantly about staying in touch. Bear in mind that only 1% of LinkedIn users publish content regularly and more than 90% consume it. That’s a tremendous opportunity to highlight your professional knowledge and position yourself as a thought leader in your field. As well as sharing relevant and engaging content, try to connect with others and engage with their posts too.
Remember, digital communication is heavily reliant on your writing skills, so everything you post needs to be polished and professional. Share only what you’re knowledgable about and what you’re sure will help others. Be authentic, share your professional journey but don’t forget to show interest in your connections’ posts and updates.
3. Beware of the context
Etiquette is highly dependent on context, so at all times be mindful of the culture and background of the audience you’re speaking to. The golden rule is to always start with a higher level of formality and work your way down.
The relaxed and informal tone on social media can trick us into sharing something that we wouldn’t normally divulge in corporate surroundings. To make sure you’re on the right track, look at what other professionals are doing and try to mirror their level of formality.
Keep in mind that very often tone of voice and human elements are lost in the translation. What we often forget is that behind every screen there is a human being with thoughts, feelings and their own personal interpretation of our message, so make sure your written words and comments don’t leave room for misinterpretation.
4. Agree to Disagree
There will be occasions when people may not agree with you. That’s perfectly normal and expected. The most important thing is to stay calm, poised and respectful. Never let yourself lose your temper and lower your communication to personal issues or let it escalate into inappropriate language. Always take the high road and handle every situation with grace, not ego.
Remember that the Internet is a public space where history is visible forever, so don’t say or do anything that you may later regret. Arguing with someone online can bring entertainment to other users but it won’t bring you any new business. Stay calm, polished and show respect to different opinions. Don’t get into pointless arguments but instead show that you’re well-mannered and deserving of new clients and opportunities.
5. Build connections, not links
Be the person you’d connect with and follow. Don’t over-promote yourself and your business and spam everyone with special offers. Instead show genuine interest in others, ask questions and learn how can you support them. Yes, it takes time to get to know more about each connection but that makes it more meaningful and your proposition will be more personal and memorable.
Remember, people are looking for meaningful connections and content that resonates with their beliefs and values. Making a personal connection is a way to stand out as a thought leader and gain a reputation as being trustworthy of doing business with.