Networking used to be about exchanging business cards in crowded rooms at conferences – not anymore. With the variety of digital tools that you have today, you can create a strong network of useful contacts from the comfort of your home. We’ve collected useful strategies and tools to help you build your social capital online without it feeling like endless cold outreach.
What is online networking?
Networking used to be all about meeting new people in person and expanding one’s list of contacts by meeting people face-to-face. Online networking uses the same principle, but with the use of digital tools, such as online networking platforms, social networks, online conferences and others.
With the rise of personal and professional social media, online events, even dating apps (yes, those can be used for networking too!) online networking has become a predominant way to meet people and establish new useful connections. In no way should it replace meeting people in person, but it is a valuable addition that can (and will) make networking faster, more accessible and diverse.
The importance on online networking for business
Networking has been quite the buzzword since the early 1970s, and to this day it remains one of the fundamentals for creating a successful business or building an excelling career. Networking comes in handy for everyone: it allows beginners to access the expertise of others, it allows experts to build a name for themselves and become well-known (and paid) specialists. Networking is extremely useful to save your time – here’s an article on how you can save yourself hours of research by reaching out to your network. From getting a reference letter or a job recommendation to introducing to potential business partners, networking is always an effective strategy to excel. Very often, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.
The advantages of online networking over traditional networking
The pandemic acted like a catalyst for online networking. According to Forbes, since the pandemic hit, the amount of virtual events increased by 1000%. Many important events have been moved online, while offline networking was commonly not possible due to quarantine and travel restrictions. That’s when the power of online networking was fully revealed.
Online networking has several important advantages over networking in person:
- It is more accessible. There is no need to spend money on traveling to conferences or spend time and money on commutes. You can build a strong international network of connections by using your phone or laptop.
- It is global. While offline networking has certain geographical limitations, online networking is global. You can potentially reach any person from any corner of the world online in case you have the right pitch for them.
- It is more democratic. While at public gatherings the most influential people may be crowded and difficult to reach, they will be available online.
- It is more comfortable. Approaching people online can be very stressful. Even if you crafted your perfect elevator pitch, things still may go wrong in a live setting. Online networking platforms allow you to perfect your initial message and put your best foot forward while meeting someone new. This advantage is especially important for introverted people and people with social anxiety.
If you know how to use these benefits of online networking to your advantage, you will be able to build real, sustainable connections. Intch team did a bit of research on the subject and we wrote more on how to establish connections here.
Disadvantages of online networking
It’s not all gravy though. Online networking has several drawbacks to keep in mind when you are building your connections remotely:
- It takes time. While an offline, face-to-face interaction is memorable, online interactions can be forgotten quite quickly. So, in order to make a lasting connection, it will take some time to get to know the person and make them remember you.
- It is too easy at times. The accessibility of people online is a powerful advantage – but it can also be a drawback. Your message can be easily deleted or archived, and people may block you – deliberately or accidentally. This can be very frustrating, so it is worth having patience when you’re building your network online.
- There are not enough specific tools for online networking. Most tools that exist for networking online are far from being perfect. Social media and dating apps have a ton of distracting factors – not to mention that contacting some people on these apps might be treated as a privacy violation. Other platforms like LinkedIn are highly formal and they are restricting the communication to a specific tone, which can also be inconvenient. So, there is a need for other instruments that will be more effective for networking online.
How to network online: tips and tricks
In order to make your networking successful, there are a few tips that can make you more successful:
- Create a presence for yourself. Regardless of the platform that you use, before you reach out to people, you need to make sure there is enough info about yourself. Did you fill out your profile? Did you describe your expertise and experience? Did you make enough content about yourself? Let people know who you are and give them enough information to scroll through – so they can make an informed decision on whether or not you can be helpful.
- Get to know the people you’re reaching out to. Yes, it is time-consuming, but your pitches will be more effective if the people you’re reaching out to have a sense that you know who they are. Take the time and read what they post, so you come prepared.
- Use DMs. On platforms like Instagram, DMs can be notorious for flirtatious messaging, but private messages can actually be a useful tool for pitching. But first, make sure that you follow the people you’re reaching out to for a while, so it’s not a completely cold outreach message.
- Attend virtual events. Online courses and conferences are perfect for meeting other people with similar interests. Don’t be shy to introduce yourself and ask questions – that’s how people will remember you. And then you can get a valuable connection that will last.
Where can I build my network online?
There are numerous online platforms that you can use for online networking, such as:
- LinkedIn, the most professional of all social networks. LinkedIn is strictly professional and is commonly used for hiring. However, it can take you weeks to wait for a response.
- Facebook. World’s most famous (and infamous) social network can be used for more than posting family pictures. If used professionally, Facebook can be a valuable instrument to build connections.
- Instagram. Perfect for posting pictures of your breakfast or networking if you’re in the creative field.
All of these instruments are valid, but none of them are made specifically for networking. And that makes them less than perfect for reaching your business goals.
Intch is an app that is built on the principle of mutual support: you post an ad with a request and AI offers it to five people who are able to help. By helping others, you can build your social capital and establish connections. Intch allows its members to look for advice, search for mentors, post job openings and so much more. Intch was specifically built for networking and it can help find the right people find each other within a few hours. No need to scroll through social media, no need to specifically seek out the contacts. You just post a request – and start networking.