What Is Online Networking in Today’s Business World?
Networking has always been a huge part of the business world. It allows you to raise your profile, and make natural connections with others in your industry and knowledge fields.
In years gone by, professionals and businesspeople made connections through activities such as attending a networking event or trade fair, and by joining relevant associations and clubs. You never went anywhere without a pocket full of business cards to hand out.
Today, professional networking is more likely to take place online. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have made it easy to connect and stay in touch with people all around the world, without the need for face-to-face contact.
There are many benefits of networking online, though it doesn’t come without challenges. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of online networking.
5 great benefits of online business networking
Online business networking is more efficient in terms of cost and time. It also allows you to develop your brand and engage with customers in a personal way while increasing your reputation in real-time. Here are five reasons you should be strategic about building your online network.
Expand your network globally
Online business networking allows you to tap into a global network of potential clients, vendors, and like-minded professionals. It’s a great way for entrepreneurs like you to connect with people globally, share information about you and your business, and build your reputation.
Become an authority in your field
Online business networking is also a way to gain more authority and credibility in your field. Social networking sites are full of opportunities to reach out to people who are already respected in your area of specialization. They are also places where you’ll find communities dedicated to your sphere of expertise. By offering help and advice, and expecting nothing in return, your reputation as an authority will soar – and this will help to attract more people to you.
Develop your brand
To build and grow a small business, and enhance your reputation as an authority in your field, it’s important to develop your personal and business brand. Social media is a wonderful tool for this. The key is finding out which platform works best for your target audience and what type of content they like to read, watch, or listen to – and then provide it.
Reach the right people – create a community to exchange ideas
As your reputation grows and your personal brand becomes identifiable, the number of your connections online will increase. This is your personal business community. Its role is to provide a place to meet new people, share ideas, ask questions, and offer and receive help. You’ll also gain access to global insight that you could never achieve without social networking.
Connect in real-time
Online business networking allows you to connect with the people you need to grow your small business by reaching out to potential customers, building relationships, finding new hires, and more. And there is no delay in your messaging – fast broadband speeds mean that connections and conversations are instantaneous.
Online networking challenges for businesses
As I’ve discussed, online networking is a wonderful tool that can be used to build relationships and connections with people from all over the world. However, it also presents many challenges. The three that are often most problematic are maintaining consistency, staying focused, and the nature of the interaction.
It can be difficult to be consistent
Consistency is key to developing a successful online network. You’ve got to be there, show that you are genuine, and be present. This can be difficult. You may have a lack of time, not be sure of what to say, or simply not know where to start. Your to-do list may have many urgent items that need your attention.
It’s easy to lose focus on your online networking efforts. You can spend hours a day chatting with your followers on Facebook and Twitter, only to find out that you’re not making any progress with your networking goals.
Being online, you may also find that your attention is pulled away from your networking efforts. Especially on Facebook, where a constant stream of notifications upset your focus.
Online interaction may not be the same
Communication may be lacking in online interactions. There are differences in how we communicate online as opposed to face to face. The lack of facial expression, gestures, tone of voice, and body language makes it difficult to build rapport with the other person.
Has online networking worked for you last year, or do you want to go back to the old way?
Over the last year, we’ve been compelled to network online rather than in person. How have you found this?
I know people in my network who have taken to this new way of communicating like a duck to water. Others have found it to be more tedious, and have struggled to make communication online less impersonal and more intentional.
Do you think that online networking is a sustainable strategy for you? Or do you yearn to return to face-to-face communication, where you have the benefit of body language to help guide your conversations?
Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the global nature of social interaction on the internet, made connections you never thought possible, and expanded your reach and reputation.
I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know.
Would you like to hear more about leadership? To book me for entrepreneurial coaching or for a speaking event, please get in touch.