Just yesterday I was reading through my messages on a networking board that I am affiliated with when I came across a message from someone who was requesting to network with me and I had no earthly idea who they were. It seems that this is getting to be the norm.
Maybe I am not quite ‘with it’ but I just don’t understand how anyone could believe that I would want to reveal my friends and family email addresses and names to someone who hasn’t even taken the time to pop me a short line of introduction. And even with that done, is that really enough? I think not.
I liken this tactic to walking into a place of business you have never been to before and asking to speak with the owner. Yeah, that is all fine and dandy. But, what is out of place is that the next thing they do. I liken it to saying to the owner, Hi I am so and so and I would love for you to simply hand over to me all your friend’s and relatives, business associates, and supplier’s contact information. Nothing much really, I just want their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and business URLs. Do you get my drift? What do you supposed the owner would do? What would YOU do?
So how DO you make this transition when in a networking situation? Is online Networking any different than face-to-face networking? One huge difference is the face-to-face kind done in a local civic group or Chamber setting is a much longer process. It can take years to get to know the other members and you have to participate and join committees before you see any real benefit from the investment you make with your membership dues. Once that connection is made you can share your contacts one-by-one on an as needed basis. Whereas in online networking it is just the opposite. You can easily see the flaw in thinking that my initial response is going to be to say SURE! Let’s Network!
The first step in making a networking connection is to simply introduce yourself. Post comments to the boards or threads often and get comfortable with the group. Let them get comfortable with you too. Then invite those that you have a common ground or connection with over for an ongoing communication via email and personal messages.
One good way to find out if you have anything in common is to visit their homepage and read their ENTIRE page. Follow their links. Read their guest book entries and look at the list of networks they are affiliated with. Maybe even visit some of those networks as well. When you take the time to do this you can easily see if they might be someone you would enjoy having as a friend or business associate.
Then simply send them an email or private message and let them know by stating some of the things you have garnered from their posted information. Connect with them. Make a new friend. Then when you ask them to network with you they will be more likely to respond in a positive manner.
Whether done online or off there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Take your smile with you when you go and be open to sharing your thoughts and ideas. Remember, networking is relationship building.