More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Do the rules change when Networking Online?

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 12, 2007

on-computer.jpgAfter posting my series on networking, I received feedback that all of my focus was on face to face networking and that I had ignored online-networking completely.  

The question was – did the same rules apply?   

The reasoning was that  with the ability to make connections online to networks with thousands of people,  wasn’t face to face networking outmoded and old fashioned? And didn’t the need to be “a connector” go away? Didn’t the website, such as LinkedIn.com take that role?  

The questions intrigued me since I had never actually participated in one of these groups and didn’t really understand how posting a profile on a website was suddenly going to increase the number of people that I knew and who knew me.  

Thankfully my friend (and member of my network), Lou, offered to walk me through the steps of LinkedIn.  It seems that once you are registered you can participate in question and answer type dialogues that enable you to get to know other people and for them to get to know you.  Not exactly chatting over the cheeseball, but it sounded promising.

At first, I answered a few questions posed by other members, just to get a feel for it. Then, with my confidence increased, I posed a question of my own before heading off to bed.  

New to Online Networking – do you think it is more/less/just as effective as old fashioned in-person networking? Why or why not? (Do you have any examples of real relationships that have developed via online networking or is it mostly people who already know each other connecting? )

When I got up this morning, I had several thoughtful well-written responses.   

Matt Genovese from Texas pointed out that, It’s incredibly effective, in my opinion. However, I think we shouldn’t lose sight that localized face-to-face “old fashioned” networking is also effective in its own right.”  

Matt belongs to a LinkedIn extension Group for high-tech professionals in Austin, Texas, Door64.com. He says, “The goal is to promote online networking as an extension to LinkedIn, but also (because of our Austin-area locality) to promote face-to-face networking opportunities.”  

Sheilah Etheridge from Alaska stated, “I have found linkedin online networking far more rewarding than in person networking. In person most of the people are at a loss what to do so they hand out a business card and are on their way. Online we get to share and help one another.

I have gotten to know some of my connections very well. A few I actually consider friends. I have also had a couple job offers and gained a client. It works, but you have to invest time and energy and get to know those in your network. “ 

Kathie Thomas from Australia said, “It’s different Liz and necessary. Both offline (face-to-face) and online networking are necessary today for all types of businesses. I’ve built almost my entire team through online networking and lots of clients that way too. But offline networking has meant gaining clients that would not have looked for me online.I’ve got lots of friends and contacts online and have actually met some of them when travelling interstate and overseas so it was worth getting to know them online.

And a recent book I’ve written has had two people contribute to it from overseas – through online networking. I was also a contributor to another book for a lady in the US whom I’ve never met in person but know online.

Last year my husband and I accompanied our daughter to Ireland – her first overseas trip and it was a good excuse for us. We went to Dublin, Kildare, drove around Ireland, went to London and then Paris.

Several weeks before we went I sent out a message via several Virtual Assistant forums to say what cities I’d be visiting and when. I had VAs from Dublin, London and Paris respond and I had meetings with each one. The lady in London and her husband took my husband and me out for the whole day and we visited Rochester, Canterbury Cathedral, the White Cliffs of Dover and other places. Also I had a man from London ring me out of the blue who wanted to do business with VAs in Australia and when I mentioned I was coming to London he and his wife elected to meet us off the plane and take us to lunch. None of this would have happened if I didn’t network online. “

So what did I conclude from my brief foray into electronic networking?

It certainly has the advantage of convenience, breadth and speed. And I really like the idea of using it as part of an overall networking strategy, in which one augments and supports the others –  I’ll definitely be back. 

And I will still observe the rules for networking listed in my previous blogs – everything I learned tells me that they are just as, or even more important, than in traditional networking.

1.      seek relationships – not quick sales 

2.      look for ways to be of help to others

3.      maintain relationships on an ongoing basis

4.      get to know a wide variety of people

5.      bring those people together through you

The bottom line is that sites like www.linkedin.com  provide the opportunity to connect with others – but they don’t act as the connector – that is still largely up to the individuals involved. You have to put yourself out there as authentically and sincerely as possible – and from there, it’s all up to you!

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