There are many places on the internet where you can network, such as message boards, groups, forums and other networks.
There is no need to catch a plane or get dressed up. Everything is accessible at your fingertips. Select a networking group that's relevant to your target audience, your interest or your line of business. The following are tips for effective networking on the internet.
When you join a group, post an introduction
Tell the group a little about yourself and your business. Better still, give them interesting and unique information to increase the chances of them remembering you. Keep in mind that in online networking, people can only see your name but no face. At times, several members may have a name similar or close to yours. Try to distinguish yourself.
Keep your introduction simple, interesting and short
Do not launch into a sales pitch immediately as this is likely to turn people off. Many times, we are so keen on sharing about our business that we forget that networking has to do with forming relationships first, then making sales later.
Greet new members
A brief welcome note with a short self-introduction will be a perfect public relations move. Remember, you never know when a group member could end up being your loyal customer or a key strategic alliance in your business.
Carefully read the group's rules
Each group has its own rules. Some are discussion-only, other allow you to post ads. Some have particular days of the week for specific topics. Always follow the rules of the group. Be sure to note which day is set aside for what in each group. Sticking to the rules will earn you the respect of the members, moderators and group owners.
Participate in the threads or conversations
Don't just lurk around. Obviously, you joined the group to share, establish business contacts and learn, so that is a reason for you to post. If you remain secluded, no one will know you are there and consequently, no one will know what your business is offering.
Offer advice and help whenever you can
If someone asks for advice or help, give it in any form you can. Networking has to do with give and take. If you help someone now, you will also be helped when in need. Share and help others. It's a win-win game.
Let go of racial, personal and cultural biases
Many networking groups have global membership. Respect others ideas, opinions and cultures, regardless of how unfamiliar they may be to you. Trying to be supportive and courteous can go a long way in enhancing business relationships.
Keep your language simple and clear
Some people in your group may have only basic knowledge of English. Even for those who speak English, the language can be misunderstood. So be clear and willing to simplify and rephrase language to be understood by a global audience.
Where some members have differing opinions, don't get involved. Be diplomatic. Realize that at times, people just need time and space to express themselves.