How to Network in the Digital Age

It’s not all about Friend Requests

If you’ve been in business or in the working environment for any significant amount of time, you probably know how important networking and making connections is. It’s an essential skill you need to hone in on if you plan on ever succeeding in business. However, in 2017, a whole new dynamic comes into play – the digital sphere. The world has taken on a whole new dimension with entire businesses being able to run almost absolutely digitally. The question that you must be asking now is how to adapt those essential traditional networking skills to the digital world. We look at a few essential concepts to keep in mind when making connections online below.

Substance

Connecting with people on social media networks is always lovely; a friend request, a follow or a new connection helps your numbers and grows your audience. However, if your aim when networking is to create connections of substance that actually create business associations that help your business grow and develop then you need to make sure that the connections you are making are just as substantial as the results you aim to get from them. Simply sending someone a link or an image won’t do here. You need to bring something to the table. Give your connection a reason to engage with you and follow you regularly before you pitch anything to them, otherwise, you will become the equivalent to the annoying guest at a braai who is more interested in getting you invested in their business idea than they are in the actual braai. Although people understand that you are passionate about your business and are simply trying your best to make it successful, they also just want to unwind, have some food and socialise.

So how do you use every opportunity to network without becoming a nuisance? The same way you would at a braai. You would get to know people, have conversations with them and treat them like people rather than prospects before you think of pitching any idea to anyone. In the same way, if you make a connection online, you need to have the virtual conversation with this connection – by pointing out topics of interest you may have in common, by providing useful or interest content or by simply listening/engaging when your connection attempts to express something on their own platform. This way there is a kind of digital relationship between you and you are able to build a more informed pitch/request/relationship, depending on what your aim in this connection is. Connect, before you attempt to sell.

Let users speak for you

If you are regularly digitally active, there is often a danger of seeing your followers as numbers that are just nice to have. If you work hard to keep your followers, consumers, connections, etc engaged with you and your platforms you should be able to count on them to spread the word. It is universally known that ‘word of mouth’ is the most effective marketing tool there is, this is part of the reason why updated, relevant, useful content is so important (along with great service and great products, of course) – it guarantees you will stay at the top of your consumers minds whenever they have to make a recommendation. If your service is good enough, they may even go out of their way to do this for you without any encouragement at all. Asking your best supporters to review or share you and your service is a great way to give ‘word of mouth’ the extra push to make your network work for you.

Find your audience

One of the highlights of using online or digital methods of marketing is the ability to target your required audience to very detailed points. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. It may take a bit of time and effort to get to know your ideal audience and where you need to go to find them, but once you do, it is well worth it. You need to think about what it is that your required connection is interested in and where they are likely to go looking for it and make sure that you are there too.

Be Presentable

If you expect to make any meaningful move in the digital sphere, you need to be digitally presentable. This is the equivalent of dressing for success in the non-digital space. Where you would wear your smartest, most professional outfit and you would put on your friendliest manner, you also need to dress every digital platform you have for success. This comes all the way from your website, your logo, your e-mail signature, to your social media accounts. Every account with your name or your business’s name is a representation of you in an even greater way than you are at a meeting or a networking event. The internet is forever – every interaction (or lack thereof) is always available for the public to see and judge you by. Make use of this opportunity to make the best impression possible – at all times.

If you expect to make any meaningful move in the digital sphere, you need to be digitally presentable. This is the equivalent of dressing for success in the non-digital space. Where you would wear your smartest, most professional outfit and you would put on your friendliest manner, you also need to dress every digital platform you have for success. This comes all the way from your website, your logo, your e-mail signature, to your social media accounts. Every account with your name or your business’s name is a representation of you in an even greater way than you are at a meeting or a networking event. The internet is forever – every interaction (or lack thereof) is always available for the public to see and judge you by. Make use of this opportunity to make the best impression possible – at all times.

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