Independent from the rise of computed technologies, social and professional networking exist since men and women have gathered and constituted societies.
Before the age of the internet (which sounds like a while ago, but realistically is only 30 years old!), our ancestors would create social groups based upon federating thematics (religion, social class, education, etc), outside of a simple affinity for one another.
With the apparition of the internet, the networking game changed. Not on its fundamentals but on its scale, multiplied and on its shapes, modernized.
In this guide, you will explore the definition of online networking, how, why and what you’ll get out of it and my favorite tools and advice to be successful!
Let’s dive in.
What is Online Networking?
Derived from the Social networking service, the definition of online networking can be described as using an online platform “to build social networks or social relationships with other people who share similar personal or career content, interests, activities, backgrounds or real-life connections.”
Networks are a valuable resource for any business. They can help you develop new relationships, conduct research, and promote your services. If you’re an entrepreneur, online networking can be particularly valuable because it’s free and easy to do.
Online networking is all about creating connections with people who share your interests or work in the same industry as you. It’s about meeting new people and making friends who can potentially share knowledge with you or introduce you to others in the network.
How to Network Online
Networking is a crucial part of the job search process and we, as humans, are wired to be social creatures. It is important to know how to network online as well because this makes it easier for people who don’t have a lot of connections in their network.
There are many ways you can start networking online including joining groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, if they have a professional community.
But joining is only the first step. Actively participating and connecting with others in groups, whether on a forum or during an online event is paramount.
Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as a passive network. You gotta build and nurture relationships in order to collect the fruits of your networking sessions.
It means that you need not to think about networking, and that rather than hunt for a number of connections, it’s important to build on them repeatedly.
See that weekly Art webinar about Monet you’re attending, well you won’t start talking about your job hunting and sharing your work experience with other participants in the first session. You’ll focus on drawing, learning and during or after the sessions, you’ll be exchanging ideas, talking about your own work, what you do outside of painting, and if it clicks with some, you’ll build from there.
Surprise! It’s the same for professional events or events that you would consider to be more professional. You first start chatting with one or two persons whose profiles or speeches gave you an impression. And then you start building on it.
Why Do You Need To Network Online?
Online networking is an essential tool in today’s world. And I won’t lie to you, today’s world is massively happening online. With more than half of Earth’s population having created one (or several) profiles on the major social networks, it becomes mandatory to have a presence online and to nurture it dearly.
You can use it to find a job, create a personal brand, grow your business or just stay connected. In fact, in a recent survey 80% of professionals believe that career success can be elevated through professional networking.
Not only that, but 70% of millennials no longer think that going into the office is necessary — a statement backed by networking statistics from 2021. In fact, up to 83% of employees now work remotely, at least some of the time.
Where do you network then, well from your couch! See this insightful video and learn how to build a global network online!
The benefits of online networking are numerous. That being said, you need to be careful too, because the internet is full of scams and people trying to take advantage of you. Hopefully, our friends at Better Business Bureau have tips to spot fake accounts on any social network, and I recommend you to read them before your next networking session!
The Benefits of Online Networking
You might be wondering why it’s important to network with people online. Well, it’s because you can get help and advice from professionals and experts in your field without having to leave your house.
Software developers, for example, can use online networking to collaborate with each other on projects that need more than one person working on them at the same time. They can also get help solving programming problems they might not know how to solve on their own. Working with people on open source projects is great because you get to meet new people and improve your social skills. Having a diverse community of collaborators will help you develop things like effective communication, emotional intelligence and so on.
These online communities also introduce you to tons of people you can network with, who in turn will open you up to worthwhile opportunities. Some websites like Github for instance have their own Contribution page where you can find projects accepting contributions. Time to hone your developing skills!
Although online networking is not as personal as meeting someone at a conference or trade show, it offers many benefits. The most obvious benefit is that it saves time by letting you find connections without having to physically leave your desk. It also provides the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs without having to pay for an expensive event
Networking is something that has been around for a long time and has been used by everyone from doctors and lawyers to actresses and athletes since the beginning of time. The only difference with networking online is that you can make connections with people who live in different parts of the world and maybe even speak a different language than you do and that’s great since diversifying your network holds tremendous benefits.
Tips for Effective Online Networking
Today, the vast majority of our social interactions take place online. This means that social media is a very important tool in business and can be a valuable networking opportunity for those who know how to use it.
One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to grow their network is focusing too much on their own personal brand and not enough on building connections with others.
The best way to grow your network is not to focus on yourself as much as you should be focusing on others. This is because you want to help others grow and help them by introducing them to other people that they may know. Hence, you need to pay attention to what they say, what their profile says (if they have such a profile) and how you (or a friend of yours) could be of service to them.
This is how I strengthen my relationship on LinkedIn for instance, when I receive requests to participate in Public Speaking events or if I’m offered a job I believe I’m not the right fit, I always try to help someone who has less chances to be given such opportunity. I always recommend my friends or close colleagues first and you should do so too. Don’t worry the lift will be going in your direction soon enough!
The Top 3 tools to help with your online networking
Online networking requires you not only to know the reason you’re networking, but more importantly to have the right set of tools to make your networking easy.
Hence I’ve selected the top 3 tools to help you boost your networking sessions.
Online Event Platform
The world of events is changing. Henceforward, you can attend any good event from the comfort of your sofa. Welcome to the future of event networking with hybrid events!
It’s important to manage your time efficiently so that your networking sessions don’t eat up too much of your available time. That’s where a good calendar plays its part, becoming your own personal assistant.
To keep and grow your network nothing can replace good (and frequent) conversation(s). However, at a time where respecting social distancing is required, it means the physical conversation has to migrate online. That’s why it’s important to use the right provider for you there.
Don’t Forget These 5 Tips Before You Start Your Next Connect!
1. Be Clear
Don’t beat around the bush. You’re connecting for a reason. If the person has to learn you’re looking for their expertise after reading a whole page of non-sense, that will simply not do.
2. Be Personal
It will sound silly, but please make sure you correctly address the person by their name, if they’re named Michael, don’t “Hi Mark” them.
Find something relevant to them and connect. Their company was bought a month ago by Facebook? Well, that’s your ice-breaker right there
3. Be Informative
Connecting with someone takes time and effort. One of my (now) colleague contacted me on LinkedIn to ask me a few questions on my experience on a course we had in common.
I could have spent 5 minutes giving limited information on my experience. I did not. I spent an hour explaining the in and outs of the course. What I liked and what not. Making sure that she would get a thorough answer that would allow her to make her own decision after reading.
4. Speak the Language of Your Audience
Creating a connection with someone is so much easier when you speak the same language. What I’m not talking about is “languages” in the true sense. I’m talking about specific words and phrases that we use when connecting with others. When I talk about my business to friends and family I often use words like “product marketing” and “mobile application”. But these are specific terms that they might not be aware of. They feel a disconnect.
On the other hand, some people might not get the sense that they’re being spoken to if you use metaphors that are obscure or overly technical. Your audience might feel more appreciated if you speak plainly and without slang.
To become better at conversation, one must be a better listener. Hence, if you’re looking to connect to senior Product Managers as you’re looking to switch careers, listen to Product Managers first.
You’ll see, it makes connecting simpler, authentic when you speak the same language.
5. Build Relationships
Networking is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. It’s a word that everyone knows, but few really understand. In the simplest definition, networking is relationship building.
When working in Dublin (Ireland), I often had colleagues come for a few days from our headquarters in the United States. We’d have the usual meetings and talk about work. However, I also took the time to tour the city with them, showed them that it’s totally fine to eat a burger with a fork and a knife (one called it the “French way”). I got to know them, the real them, what they like to do outside of work and genuinely had a good time covering the upcoming elections in my native country.
It led to a long lasting relationship over the years and broadened my career path. I spent hours discussing Product Management with our Director of Engineering. He encouraged me and reviewed some of the projects I was working on when I was working in Customer support. He helped me connect with other teams to get more familiar with product work, which is my job now!
I hope this guide gave you helpful tips to put in practice in your next networking session, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and your recommendations, so don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments what works best for you!