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How to network effectively online
In Network online, boost your career we spelled out the possibilities of using networking communities to connect with the right people.
Now, we tell you how to optimise your prospects after registering on an online network.You can join multiple communities depending on your interest.
How to connect
Many networks have guest books, a space where you can leave a message. This message could be visible for all to see, unless of have the option of hiding it.
"I often use the guest book to wish my contacts Happy Birthday. However instead of just writing a basic greeting, think of a meaningful greeting so that yours stands out from the rest," says Kolkata based freelance journalist Pallavi Bhattacharya.
Private messaging is another option. This means you can send a personalised message to any member. This gives you the option to provide confidential information like your contact details.
You can join a forum within the community. For instance Ryze.com has several forums. If you are a journalist, it's a good idea to joining a writers' network. Forums/groups/networks are usually started by an individual member or a group of members.
What if you do not find one catering to your interests?
This is an opportunity for you to take on a leadership role. It gives you the chance to connect more, and display your own networking/organising skills. Your forum will help generate leads for the members of your forum and in turn will bring leads to you.
"When I visited Orkut for the first time, I saw that there was no specific group for Voice and Accent Trainers. I felt there should be one so I went ahead and took the initiative of creating one," says Kolkata based trainer, Amit Ojha.
He searched for trainer profiles and sent invitations. Today his group has more than 62 members. "As a moderator, it's my duty to see that messages are related to the profession. A good moderator should always keep a watch on all activities of the group," he says.
To start your own network, some web sites charge a premium while others like Rediffconnexions offer this feature free.
Many forums also organise offline activities. Delhi based Sairee Chahal Povaiah who manages the popular Delhi National Capital Region network on Ryze.com, tips you off on how to organise offline activities.
When you attend an offline event
Don't sell at offline networking meetings. Your goal is to meet people and you may not have enough time to do a good sales presentation.
"Don't dress up too much; you aren't attending a wedding or a party. Before registering, read very carefully on the theme of the activity and then try to actively participate without boasting," says Pallavi.
Whenever you attend a mixer, make a point of heading straight for people you don't know. Greet the newcomers (they will love you for it).
Carry your business cards with you; you never know when you might meet a key contact, and if you don't have your cards with you, you lose out. After you finish talking to someone at an event, take a few seconds to jot down pertinent information on the back of their business card.
This can be anything from their business's biggest problem to the college their daughter attends -- whatever will give you a "hook" to follow up on when you call them later.
Behave professionally. "I once attended a mixer during which a guy was napping during the seminar and flirting during the breaks. He told me he came because he was free that weekend. I realised that listening to the seminar wasn't his intention at all. In fact, this made him very unpopular" narrates Pallavi.
Networking dos and don'ts
In your profile, change your focus from "what's in it for me?" to "what can I offer you?" This is perhaps the most powerful technique for deepening and widening your networks.
When you join a forum, post topics that deal with your area of expertise. If you work with a bank, then talk about the latest investment trends or ways to save money. Respond to others' postings on the forums and provide your feedback.
Start a blog (an online diary); you'll create more buzz for yourself. Of course, don't forget to give a link to it on your profile page. As people read your content, they will get insights into your personality.
Don't post too many forwards on message boards as this shows a lack of original thought.
Don't send sexually provocative messages through personal messages as the moderators can track this if someone complains.
Don't join too many online networking communities, or you won't be able to invest enough time to build relationships. Join two communities at the most.
Never share your e-mail and phone number with a new contact unless you build up some trust in that person.
"Make sure you network selectively as there are a lot of people trying to use online networking to find potential dates. All said and done make sure you are not networking for the sake of it. It has got be mutually beneficial," says Bangalore based enterprise solutions consultant, Madan R.
Remember, it is net-work, not net-chill or net-fun. It takes time, energy and effort to make online networking work for you.
Have you networked online? Which are the best networks? Shares your experiences
Sunder works as a Trainer with a leading global BPO.
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