The idea of networking can be nausea-inducing. But it doesn’t have to be. Learn how to network effectively. and still keep your lunch down.
Does the idea of networking fill you with dread? Whether you’re on the hunt for a new job or you’re hustling for more freelance work, few people enjoy the anxiety or fear of rejection that comes with putting yourself out there.
Building networking relationships can be difficult, especially if you’re focused too heavily on how you will benefit. A more effective and natural move is to take on the role of helper and simply share your knowledge freely. It’s a no-brainer; you can speak about something you have mastery over and you aren’t asking for anything.
When you let go of the old-school exchange of cards and sales schmooze, networking becomes a whole lot less scary, especially when you move your networking online. (Click here to Tweet this idea)
Follow these three tips to network authentically and build lasting relationships online:
1. Find relevant LinkedIn and Facebook groups
Groups are where the action is on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Join relevant groups to connect with your peers and ideal customers. Listen in for a bit, get a feel for the group, then use your expertise to answer questions and get to know other group members.
Set aside time each day or week to dedicate to group activity, and you’ll quickly build a reputation as a go-to person on a given topic. You’ll build personal and professional relationships that keep you top-of-mind the next time someone needs to hire or is looking for a consultant.
Over time, make a point to seek out new groups to widen your circles and let go of those that are less relevant. Avoid showing up only when you have something to ask of the group, as you’ll quickly be pegged as “that” person who’s only concerned about what’s in it for them. Not cool.
2. Forge connections in the blogosphere
If you blog, you know how solitary blogging can be as you pour yourself into writing content, sharing it and waiting for responses. Reading blogs in your industry and actively commenting where appropriate is a great way to forge connections. Well thought out, genuine comments can get you noticed by bloggers.
Repeat commenters become a part of that person’s tribe and can lead to bigger opportunities as they get to know and trust you. Create a list of blogs to follow, including both bigger names and up-and-comers. Get to know them and leave comments when you have something to add to the dialogue.
Don’t go crazy and comment on everything — that can make you seem like a blog stalker. Also, make a point to add these bloggers to your social networks such as Google+ and Twitter.
3. Go beyond the retweet to get noticed
It’s no secret that getting active on social platforms like Twitter and Google+ is a low-risk way to engage with people you want in your network. But you can’t hop on and retweet a couple things, then hope you’ll land a spot as their business BFF.
For this strategy to be effective, you need to have a presence on the platform, with a fully built-out profile. Imagine you engage with someone you want to get to know better, and they visit your profile to learn more about you — but your profile is blank. Would you do that on an online dating site? Then don’t do it on Twitter, Google+ or any other social network.
Take time to select people to follow, fine-tune your profile, tweet or “+” your own content and get active commenting and sharing. Be yourself, add value and be consistent. If you need to, focus on one platform at first instead of dividing your focus across many.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. It’s easy and enjoyable when you focus on your zone of genius and are authentic. Pick one of these ways to get yourself out there today and start building your network based on value and expertise, not schmooze.
Maggie Patterson is a PR strategist who helps entrepreneurs use DIY PR to grow their business. You can connect with her and learn more about DIY PR on her website and on Google+.