Top Ten Online Business Networking Tips

1. Remember, you’re connecting with people.
Networking is people connecting with people to contribute to one another in some way. This is true whether you are networking face to face or computer to computer. Remind yourself as you are networking online that there is another person on the other side of that computer screen responding to your emails, websites and online messages.

2. Clarify what you have to give and what you want to gain from your online networking.
Identify your purpose and objectives for joining and participating in an online community. Make sure you are clear about what you have to contribute to the community as well as what you can gain from being part of the community.

3. Become an information center.
Maintain a master file of documents, resources, web links, etc. which have been helpful to you in your work. Not only are these useful resources for you in your daily activities, but they can readily be shared with others. These help you to become a giver, not a taker.

4. Be personally visible on the Internet.
Maintain a personal home page. Drive traffic to your website(s), e.g., by posting useful materials in the resources or links area. Use the signature file in your email to publicize who you are and the nature of your professional activities. Write and publish articles at every opportunity, and be sure that the bylines link to your website.

5. Pick an online community or communites that work for you.
Find online communities where your purpose is in sync with the mission of the online community. Make sure the community provides the types of opportunities and interactions that you desire.

6. Review the online community as a guest before you join.
Once you find an online community that is of interest to you, take time to check out the site to learn more about their purpose, activities and membership criteria. If you were considering joining a networking club or industry association, you would probably visit as a guest to learn more about the organization before you make a commitment to be a member. This same attitude and approach is appropriate for online communities.

7. Be prepared.
Create a master document of your bios, profiles and introductions that contains the following:
• Personal branding statement(s)
• Bios — short & long
• Profiles used on various sites
• E-mail/forum intro template
• URLs of all your online publications
• URLs of all your profiles
Pull information from this document to write your online community profile. Be sure to review other profiles on the site to notice what other community members are including in their profiles. Identify the types of information that are most suitable to include that will help you make the best connections. Take what you learn from reviewing other profiles and clarify your purpose. Make any updates to your profile that will make it most effective. Having a master document will make it easy for you to quickly create online profiles and update multiple sites when you change jobs, write a new article or otherwise change your positioning.

8. Pace yourself.
Get involved in online communities at a pace that you can maintain. It is better to get involved gradually than to make a big splash and then fade away. Let your involvement and presence be a building process that grows in momentum, visibility and value over time. This gives you and others a chance to develop trust and rapport.

9. Manage your email.
Email can stack up just like paperwork on your desk can stack up. The same organizing system that applies to paper, applies to emails. Read it, delete it, file it or send it to the appropriate person for response. Create a “Read” file and an “Action” file so that you can move emails there appropriately and keep your incoming email file box clean and current.

10. Be sensitive to people’s time and email boxes.
Be respectful and appropriate with the use of people’s time. This includes the time it takes for people to read and respond to your emails and online messages. Send succinct, to-the-point messages that can be read and responded to with ease. Do not waste people’s time. Give value and create value.