By Andrés Uribe, Expedition PR
The telegraph, two way radio, land phone and cell phone all mark great advances in communication throughout history. These though are all overshadowed by the advent of the Internet. Through online communication, it is now possible to intimately know a person without ever stepping foot in the same room. In regards to networking, this is a huge deal.
In the past, a networking event meant grabbing a stack of business cards, putting on your best business attire, and navigating rooms offering free coffee and a few dozen people wearing nametags. While this still goes on today, and can be a valuable experience in the networking process, the Internet offers us valuable opportunities to start networking before ever stepping foot into a trade show. Here are three networking strategies that you can implement without ever putting on pants:
Claim your online profiles. Before you do anything, you should mark your territory by claiming your online profiles. According to research done by Edison Research, 56% of Americans already have a profile on a social networking site. This means that the 44% who don’t are missing out on one big networking party. Your online profiles can be divided into two different categories:
General. These are places that most every professional, regardless of industry, should have a presence. This includes sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Once on these sites, it becomes easy to set up filters in order to find where members from your industry are hanging out.
Industry specific. These include forums and social networking sites that will cater specifically to members of your industry and the people who interact with them. In order to find those that fit your needs, some searching is required. A good tip though is to not get stuck on a single one. Most industries will have multiple large forums with many active users. Each forum can have a culture of its own, so try a few out while you’re searching for the one you like best.
Express yourself. Now that you have online profiles and people know who you are, tell them what you’re all about. Start by making regular daily posts on your profiles. Be sure to make it so your message comes across clear and concise, and is engaging to other users. Use hashtags when on Twitter and always give credit and tag publications and/or authors who’s articles you share with your peers.
After building out your profiles with posts, take things a step further by writing an article yourself. Byline articles are a great way to give the world a more complete idea of your view on a topic. Once written, submit it to trade publications to see if they will publish it for you. If all else fails, start your own blog and publish the article yourself.
Attend events, virtually. While posting thoughts and publishing articles are two great ways to tell people about yourself and make new like-minded connections, real-time interactions shouldn’t be forgotten. Every day there are a countless number of live online networking events that come in the form of webinars, Twitter chats, slide presentations, chat rooms, etc. These events revolve around a topic and host and encourage group participation and interaction between attendees. I recently attended one where everyone was given 1-2 min of video time to introduce themselves and their business, then it broke out into a public chat room that also facilitated private chat features should you like to talk to someone more in depth.
Finding these events is almost as easy as attending them. There are many industry specific event boards out there that tell you of all the upcoming online events for that month. If you can’t find an event board, post the question on an industry forum. If you find that there’s enough people in your same position, take that as your cue to start your own virtual networking event!
As the ways we communicate grow and changes, so too will the ways we network. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong online network, an important piece to any networking strategy.
Also, be sure to check out section 3 of our eBook, Preparing for you First PR Push, for info on how to network with reporters!