Over the past twenty years, I’ve built an extensive network of associates, ranging from C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies to self-made entrepreneurs. My connections have been an invaluable asset to my career, as they’ve made introductions to helpful people, have provided me with guidance and advice, and have even become some of my favorite mentors.
A decade ago I was the President of a young professionals group in Monterey County (California). From monthly networking mixers to speaking events, the purpose of our organization was to make business networking fun, friendly, and easy for our 1000+ members.
The reason why I joined the organization (aside from wanting to make connections in my area), was to overcome my fear of meeting new people. The truth is, I used to be a shy person. It took years of effort and lots of in-person meetings for me to finally feel comfortable chatting with strangers. During my tenure on the Board, I not only learned the ins-and-outs of networking, but it also helped me build self-confidence in meeting new people.
Networking not only connected me with all types of individuals (that benefited me on both a personal and a professional level), but it also gave me opportunities to raise my public profile. As an example, I was featured in a book by Lucy Rosen called Fast Track Networking: Turning Conversations Into Contacts. The book highlights tips from business experts on various ways people can learn to network like a pro, both at events and online.
In the book I said, “Before attending a networking meeting, I remind myself that I am confident, happy, and open to meeting new people. I’ve found that smiling and being friendly encourages communication amongst strangers. Also, wear a bright colored top. Whenever I wear yellow or orange, I find that people are the most drawn to or comfortable chatting with me. Color has a psychological effect on people.”
Despite the fact that most events are currently canceled, there are still ways you can expand your network online. Here are 4 tips for networking like a pro online.
- Stay in touch with contacts on LinkedIn
- Join Facebook groups
- Networking apps
- Participate on online forums
Ironically, one of the contacts I made over a decade ago (via LinkedIn) just reached out to me today. What started out as a business-oriented relationship quickly turned into a friendship.
As a top executive at one of the world’s leading mass media conglomerates, I initiated an online connection with this person years ago, with the purpose of partnering with their company (as I was doing business development for a tech startup I had co-founded).
I come from the perspective that, in order to build valuable relationships, you need to earn people’s trust and friendship. During our initial communication, we quickly realized we had things in common, which made it easier for us to turn our digital association into a real life friendship. This just proves the point that connecting with strangers online, even via a platform like LinkedIn, can help you turn conversations into contacts.
By expanding your network with people who like and respect you, it makes it easier to ask for their guidance or referrals down the line. Always remember – people are just people. The more that you can tap into their human side, the easier it will be to develop a relationship of value.
Throughout my 9+ years as a pro lifestyle blogger, joining niche-focused Facebook groups was one of the best ways for me to connect with my peers, stay on top of industry news and information, and learn tips on how to grow my audience.
While these groups started out as just virtual associations with strangers, many of these women have since become my friends in real life (especially when we’d meet at events like New York Fashion Week).
The value of networking with peers in your field is that it can give you insight into businesses or industry news that you might never otherwise know about. For example, if a brand was known to be difficult to work with, one of my blogger buddies could give me a heads up. This type of insider information has been so helpful, as it’s enabled me to make better decisions about who I partner with on campaigns and projects.
I encourage you to actively engage with Facebook group members by responding to chats and queries, and by offering valuable assistance or feedback. The more that you can help others, the easier it will be to build relationships with the group members, as they’ll come to know and trust you more. After a while, you can then add these contacts as your Facebook friends, to further develop your relationships with them.
Are you experiencing trouble making business connections? Your smartphone might help. Are you planning on keeping in touch or are you planning a meet-up (on distance)? Your smartphone may assist with that, as well. Here are some excellent business networking applications: Shapr Tinder for business relationships. Making friends in business can be difficult when the emphasis is on the value of time and the application of effort. Invitly Grow your professional network. Invitly is another professional business networking app, which is members-only making it a little smaller but more exclusive than other business networking apps. It also means it’s harder for spammers to use the app. Bumble Bizz An extension of the popular dating app, Bumble, Bumble Bizz connects you with potential mentors, industry leaders and brands.
Last, but certainly not least, is to network via online forums. Reddit is a great example of a site that features online forums (on all types of subjects), which can be a helpful way to connect with other like-minded people. Whether they’re your peers or experts that you can learn from, online forums offer valuable guidance and assistance with all types of issues.
When networking online, your goal should be to provide other people with helpful information. Don’t look to be controversial or challenging (as that only creates enemies). But, rather, show them that you are knowledgeable and willing to assist them. The more positive feedback you can give, the easier it will be to attract people to you, which will help you grow your network even faster. By focusing on expanding your network, it can help you accelerate your career and grow your business. Even though you might not be able to make connections in person right now, you can still utilize your time wisely to pursue online networking.
Join the discussion!