I’m a huge fan of online networking. When Marketwire introduced the Social Media 2.0 press release  in 2008, I was encouraged by my colleagues and managers to start experimenting with social media as a way to communicate with my clients, prospects and industry peers. It worked. Not only have I kept up with my social networking, but I’ve made some incredible connections. With what I’ve learned, I’ve also become a resource for others who are looking for help with their online networking efforts. Here are my ten rules for online networking:
- Be active. Devote time to manage your social media feeds; a real and sustained presence is important in order to build your online persona. Once you’re familiar with the tools and discover which ones work best for you, it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes a day to manage your online networking.
- Be the ambassador of your organization. Disclose who you are and who you work for. Some of the connections you make online will become business partners or clients, and honesty and transparency are key to relationship-building. Act professionally when representing your organization.
- Be helpful. One of the basics of networking — offline or online – is to bring value to your network and act as a resource for others. Help out the clients, prospects and peers you are following by retweeting their tweets, answering their inquiries, and connecting and introducing them to people in your network.
- Follow/become a fan. Follow your clients and prospects, search for them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – it’s easy.
- Connect face-to-face offline. Personal relationships still matter, so don’t forget to connect with those in your network for lunch, at industry events, or other offline gatherings. It really does help to foster stronger relationships.
- Don’t pitch. Nobody at a networking event (online or offline) wants to be pitched or given the hard sell. The sole purpose of your social networking is to make positive connections. No selling, please!
- Don’t be negative. Negativity is unattractive; your personal pains or venting of your frustrations don’t go hand-in-hand with using social media for business. And remember that you are representing your organization, so don’t put it in a negative light.
- Don’t slam the competition. It’s a bad habit (and pretty unproductive) to bemoan your competitors while you network. There are ways to properly discuss your business and competitive advantages by keeping things positive and focused toward you and your company. Don’t make competition-bashing a part of your business relationship building efforts.
- Don’t talk about your clients unless they agree to be mentioned. Some may not feel comfortable being mentioned formally in testimonials, or even informally, in a tweet. Sharing information about your clients may expose them to your competitors.
- Don’t be overly personal. There is a big difference between informal networking online, and networking that gets too personal. You’re doing this as a business professional, so it’s important that you learn the difference.
This is my second article about business networking; the first, “I’m a networker! 7 ways to release your inner networker ,” shares my experiences and successes with building great relationships offline. What are your tips for successful online networking? Share them with us – we love feedback.
Be sure to read, “3 reasons to embrace and equip your internal brand ambassadors .”
Be sure to download, “Mastering Audience Engagement ,” Marketwire’s six-chapter eBook.