Rules Of Online Business Networking
You might wonder why the online world needs special rules for business networking, ones that might be different from those that would apply face-to-face. Of course, much of the same etiquette does apply, but it’s also a brave new world where things can be different (which is a part of its appeal, after all).
That means new ideas come into play, especially for those using such things as social networks for business, rather than pleasure. It’s a curious mix of freedom and restraint that can be demanding but also quite liberating.
What To DoRemember that your page on a social network website is how people will see you; it’s your official representative. So be friendly, by all means, but also be professional. You don’t need to post your complete CV – the highlights are fine – but nor does anyone need your embarrassing holiday snaps. Find a happy medium. Think of this as your ad, and include a snappy tag line for people to remember you – but one that sums you up professionally. Remember that potential employers and business contacts do refer to social networking pages when researching you, so you want something that stands you in overall good stead.
Be curious about the online world and its possibilities. If you stick to a social network and a forum you’re doing something, but ultimately is it really worth the time? If you’re going to give time to online networking, make it really count and look for the cutting edge, whether it’s video blogs or virtual worlds (or even virtual volunteering).
Remember that online contacts don’t have to be purely online. If the person is local, transform that online contact into a real-world business relationship. With others, if you’re going to be in the same place, arrange a meeting.
Post content that advertises you or your company. You can’t be shy and retiring, but make sure you put yourself forward (there are plenty of sites that can help you or your business promote yourselves online).
Politeness costs nothing, whether it’s in the real world or the virtual. A good rule of thumb, online and off, is to treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Don’t be rude or snappy.
Online networking takes time, which is a limited resource, so use it wisely.
What Not To DoIn forums and discussion lists, don’t add a post just for the sake of it. Contribute only when you have something useful to say. Don’t write just to flame people, either, that’s not constructive, and won’t be welcomed professionally. If you disagree with a post, state your argument reasonably and cogently, with your qualifications or special expertise noted.
If you ask someone to add you as a friend on a social networking site, do it for a reason, not simply to increase the numbers. In business it’s not about how many people you know, but how many useful people. It’s about building relationships, so if you do initiate a contact, then make sure you keep up that contact.
Don’t join every network that invites you. It’s not necessary. But neither should you reject people out of hand. Sometimes quietly ignoring invitations can be better than outright rejection, especially if they’re from people you don’t know. Remember, this is for business, so keep a professional outlook.