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The Definitive Guide to Effective Online Networking

Leena Fernandes

Leena Fernandes

September 4, 2020 |

When people tell you they put up a company entirely on their own, without any help, don’t believe them. We all know in business, everyone needs connections. At some point in those people’s lives, they must have asked a friend to get their products on display.

Or maybe they asked a former classmate to introduce them to a potential investor. It’s a universal truth. No person is an island.

Table of Content

1 . Quality of Relationships First Before Quantity 

2. Reciprocity is Important

3. Relationships Can Be Created Anytime, Anywhere

4. Online Networking the Right Way

5. Networking, the Key to Success

That applies even when you’re looking for a job. Here are some statistics:

Source: University of Minnesota Crookston

According to the University of Minnesota Crookston, 70% of jobs are filled through connections and networking. Compare that with the 10% filled through on-campus recruiting and 20% filled through job posting websites. According to LinkedIn, even before jobs are posted online, they are filled either internally or via referral from a trusted source.

In other words, if you want to succeed, you need to network. 

Interesting Read : 5 Ways to use Conversational Marketing Right Now

In this article, let’s look at how to use networking to achieve the goals in your business plan. We’ll focus on digital networking since face-to-face networking is so far not possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Here are three things you need to remember before we discuss the main topic:


Quality of Relationships First Before Quantity 

When networking, don’t aim to collect as many contact details as you can. It doesn’t matter if you have thousands of connections. If they are all surface-level ones, they won’t be as valuable.

Aim to establish quality relationships instead. If you have a quality relationship with your connection, you go beyond the first-name basis. You hang out outside of work, you talk about things that are not related to your jobs, you even confide a few personal details in each other. In other words, your relationship is based on mutual trust.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should go out with all your connections and talk to them every day. That can be very expensive and time-consuming (plus, given the circumstances, impossible). I’m saying just exert an effort.

Maybe text message your connections once in a while, or send them really funny emails. You need to nurture those relationships even when you don’t need anything from anyone at the moment. When the time comes you need to approach them for a favor, I’m sure they’ll be more than willing to help.  


Reciprocity is Important

You need to understand that in networking, reciprocity is key. That means you don’t just take and take those benefits from your connections. You also have to give so they themselves will benefit from the relationship. It’s as simple as this: If Bob goes out of his way to help Jenny at work, Jenny will go out of her way to help him when he needs it, too. At least she should.

Interesting Read : How to Incorporate Conversational Marketing into Your Content & SEO Efforts?

Treat your professional connections the way you treat your personal connections. It’s all about the giving and taking by both sides. Don’t take more than what you give. There’s nothing wrong, however, with giving more than what you take from your connection. Unless you’re giving too much.

The Business Dictionary’s definition of networking is clear. It is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates,” and keeping these relationships “active through regular communication for mutual benefit.” Note the emphasis on “mutual benefit.”


Relationships Can Be Created Anytime, Anywhere

You can create relationships anytime, anywhere, even without meaning to. When you create a blog, for example, you establish relationships with your readers. When you upload a YouTube video and generate leads, you do the same. In other words, you don’t need to go to networking events to network. Networking can be done even in the confines of your home.

This is not to say, however, that you should no longer attend networking events. According to a survey from Virgin.com, 84% say they prefer face-to-face meetings, with 77% saying they allow a better reading of the body language and facial expressions in the first place. The same survey found that for every dollar companies invest in business travels, it receives a value of $12.50:

Source: Virgin.com

You can complement attending networking events with the use of digital channels to establish meaningful relationships. 


Online Networking the Right Way

Online networking should be a core part of any business plan, and it’s especially important for job seekers. Although there are many digital channels you can use to network, in this article, we’ll look at three: Email, Twitter and LinkedIn.   

1 . Email

Email is still one of the most effective ways to network. Getting the email addresses of your cold email prospects is not as difficult. Googling the person’s name can get you some results. You can use an email verification service to validate the email address you got. LinkedIn and the company website are great sources of email addresses, too.

The thing about cold emails is this: sometimes they are opened, sometimes they’re not. That’s why you need to make sure before you send them, they meet certain characteristics. Here are only some of them:

  • They should be personalized. It’s not a good idea to send the same cold email en masse to all your cold email prospects. Since these people don’t know you, you have to make your email stand out. If you include the name of your cold email prospect in the subject line, you’ll make that person want to open the email because it was intended specifically for them.  According to Propeller, including the recipient’s name in the subject line can increase the open rate by 22.2%.
  • They should offer value: Remember what I said about the principle of reciprocity? That one’s at work here.
  • Make it short but sweet. Don’t tell your entire life story in your first email. Just go straight to the point.
  • They should end with a Call To Action (CTA). Make sure the CTA is actionable. Don’t make it too complicated either. You don’t want the email recipient to be confused about what exactly you want them to do. 

Don’t forget to include an email signature at the end of your email. Email signatures make your email look professional. Besides, you can include links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts there. So if the email recipient clicks on these, they’ll know more about you.

Taking these things into consideration, here’s an example of an outreach email template. This template is what I would send when pitching a guest post for the recipient’s website: 

Subject line: Hi [NAME], here are awesome content ideas for you

Hi [NAME]

Hope you’re doing great!

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I [brief description of who you are and what you do.] I’m writing to see if you would be interested in a guest post for [WEBSITE NAME]. I’m an expert in [SUBJECT], and I’d love to write you a post about [summary of the post you want to write.] 

I am confident I can meet your editorial standards. Some of my work has been published in sites such as [SITE 1] and [SITE 2.] Here are links to some of my work: [link to one or two published pieces.]  

Thanks for your time, 

[YOUR NAME]

[Email signature here]

You can modify the template based on your purpose.Make sure to read up on guest blogging tips, too.

2. Twitter

Some people disregard Twitter as a networking platform because of its 280-character limit. The truth is, though, that character limit makes the platform even more attractive. Nowadays, people have short attention spans (according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it’s 8.25 seconds) so if you bombard them with too much information that takes too long to read, they are more likely to not finish reading at all. 

On Twitter then, that’s very unlikely to happen. Besides,  according to Inc. Real Talk, around 300 million people use Twitter regularly. That means the person you’re looking to reach is very likely on the platform. 

Networking on Twitter is not as complicated as it sounds.First, you’d have to create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Make sure you use a professional-looking profile picture, and fill in your bio. Err on the side of caution, especially since some people dismiss Twitter accounts without complete information as Internet trolls. 

On Twitter, anyone can literally start a conversation with anyone. Unlike in other social media platforms where your intentions might be questioned, it’s normal to “tag” (or “mention”) someone you don’t know personally on Twitter. Tagging is really easy, too. Just type  @ and then that person’s Twitter handle. So for instance,  @KenRice133. 

It doesn’t mean though that when you tag them, they’ll reply. To get a response on Twitter, you need to strike up a conversation in the same way you would if you were talking to the person face-to-face. So you can: 

  • Mention something they did that you enjoyed. Maybe you attended their webinar? Or maybe you read their blog post and found it really interesting? Everyone loves praise. Use that to your advantage.
  • Ask a question related to their area of expertise. 

On Twitter, you can also send direct messages. Based on my experience, though, this works best if the person is already “following” you. Besides, you can only send the private messages if you’re being followed by the person.  

To get the person to follow you, “follow” them first. You can search for the person’s account, then just click “follow.” Twitter’s advanced search function is very useful, too, if you want to look for people from a specific city or at a particular company, and follow them.

Once you’ve followed them, mention them in a Tweet. If they reply positively, invite them to send a direct message so you can continue your conversation.

You can also engage on Twitter by liking, retweeting and replying to Tweets. 

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great platform for networking with decision-makers. According to LinkedIn, as of February 2020, it has 706 million members in 200 countries and regions.

Online Networking

Source: LinkedIn

Omnicore Agency said at least 90 million of its members are senior-level influencers, while 63 million are decision-makers in their respective companies (those numbers may have even increased with more people online during the pandemic). 

LinkedIn is also great for B2B lead generation; Your posts on LinkedIn are also likely to reach people since LinkedIn has the highest organic reach of any of the major social media channels. 

There is a process you need to follow, however, when networking on LinkedIn. Don’t start inviting everyone to connect with you. That would be a waste of time. Decide who you’d like to network with first. You can do this through a customer persona:

Online Networking

Source: Veeqo

Now it’s time to consider the customer experience. The idea is to be in people’s shoes and imagine how they would react to you conducting your outreach. You don’t look at things from your perspective. You look at things from their perspective so you’ll know if what you’re planning to do is actually feasible. WIth this kind of exercise, you can reexamine your goals.

To find someone on LinkedIn, just type the name of your target company into the search bar. Let’s say I type Bamboohr. This is what I get:

Online Networking

LinkedIn will show you how many LinkedIn users are employees of that company. Just click on the number so you can get a list of profiles.

Choose who fits your customer persona. Since you’re still not connected, you can’t send a message to the person just yet. Invite them to connect. You can opt for a blank connection request, or personalize the invite a bit. If you personalize it, make sure you state your reason for sending the invite, and explain who you are.

Here’s an example of a personalized LinkedIn message from an SEO consultant looking to land new clients:

Hi [NAME]

Thanks for accepting my request to connect. I hope you’re having a great day. 

I’m an SEO consultant. I’ve worked for clients including [COMPANY 1] and [COMPANY 2] and I have been featured on sites such as [SITE 1] and [SITE 2].

I was reviewing your website this week, and I identified a couple of easy wins you could implement that would generate more traffic to your site. Would you be available for a quick call so I can share my findings and provide a bit more information about how I might be able to help you? 

Thanks for your time,

[NAME]

You can also link to a case study or a landing page.


Networking, the Key to Success

In this article, we’ve seen that in business, as in any other field, networking is critical to success. There are three principles you have to remember when networking with people: the quality of relationships is more important than the quantity, reciprocity is important, and that you can create relationships anytime and anywhere.

Although networking can be done face-to-face, it can also be done by digital means. In this article, we’ve particularly looked at email, Twitter and LinkedIn. Your networking strategy should vary from platform to platform. 

Interesting Read : Conversational Marketing Dictionary: The Terms You Need to Know

One type of networking is not better than the other. For better results, you can use a mixture of face-to-face (if already possible) and digital networking. One thing’s for sure: The sooner you get started building your network, the sooner you will achieve your business goals.


Guest Post Author Bio

Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.

Leena Fernandes

Leena Fernandes

A writer by choice. Leena has served her passion for writing mainly into the B2B marketplaces.

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