Share Tweet It’s possible that either one or two of the words in the title of this article fill you with dread or, at the very least cause you to sigh…’Networking’ and ‘on-line’! However, more than ever we need to be considering both in our professional lives – networking and our on-line profile but also, how we combine the two. Firstly the why regarding networking on-line – life is busy and we all have many things to do in a day and don’t always have time to do face-to-face networking, yet the need to make new connections, as well as build existing ones up further, whatever our role and situation, is of paramount importance. There is also an expectation now that we have an on-line presence so bringing the two together shouldn’t be too hard, right? I want to make sure this is the case and provide some top tips to help you network on-line with ease. To make this simple, let’s look at networking on-line from 2 perspectives, with tips on how to do each. However, before you do either, check your on-line profiles say what you want them to about you professionally and that appropriate settings are in place to keep more personal information locked away. The ‘warm’ scenario What this is – when you’ve met people already in person, so networking on-line is all about building that relationship further, by creating opportunities to reconnect. Consider the scenario when you have met a potential new team member or candidate for a role. It makes sense to connect in this way, so you can find out more about them and they can find out more about you. This is particularly useful if there isn’t an immediate opportunity or the current one doesn’t work out (but they are still a good candidate), it enables you to maintain a connection with them easily, without having to email them directly to do so. Also, when you are later searching people of a certain profile they will come up and be easier to connect with, as they know you already. How to make the most of this: Send personalised invitations on LinkedIn to people you meet in person – at events, business meetings, new colleagues. Top tip – do it immediately or it won’t happen. Review LinkedIn regularly – even if you just diarise 15minutes a week to do so – read the news feed and like/comment/share interesting articles you read. You might also want to congratulate people on new roles and work anniversaries. If you read an interesting article on-line that is relevant to someone in your network, then send it to them. This worked well for me this week – 2 of my workshop clients had anxieties about presenting – the next day I came across a great ‘top tips’ guide and sent it to them and so strengthened the relationship. It took me 2 minutes! Diarise reminders to keep in touch with key contacts, even if it’s just a “hello” email. Invite contacts to receive useful and relevant bulletins/newsletters from your organisation (never just sign them up without asking). If you are trying to attract a highly rated candidate for a role then sharing more about your organisation in a light touch way can be a gentle way of them getting to know you and your organisation better. You could email but the lighter touch way would be sending it to them via LinkedIn or if they are regular users, they will see it in their feed. The ‘cold’ scenario What this is – when you are actively looking to build connections without having had any previous link to them and certainly not having met face-to-face. How to make the most of this: Identify people on LinkedIn who would be good for your network/business: Invite to connect directly, if you can personalise an invitation with a good reason why you’d like to connect. If it’s because you think they have a great profile (as an employee or a candidate, if you are a recruiter) then say this, it is much better than them seeing a standard invitation – they are more likely to accept. If this is difficult or their settings don’t allow a personalised invitation, then look at what groups they are in and join relevant ones. Participate in these groups, they will hopefully become aware of you and even if not, it gives you the ability to invite them and give a good reason why i.e. you are in the same group! Always think about how you can help people and where they are at, not just about what you want from them! For instance, it might be worth connecting with potential candidates who have been in role at the typical ‘itch’ point for your industry, rather than 2 months after they start a new role. Think about relevancy. If someone mentions a person to you but doesn’t connect you, find them on-line and contact them explaining where you heard about them and why you want to connect – via LinkedIn or a website. This is likely to make the potential candidate far more likely to connect with you. If relevant, follow relevant people on Twitter, this may then give you a reason to connect more closely if you can refer to what they tweet about. Remember on LinkedIn you won’t be able to see what they share, for the most part unless you are connected, so Twitter could be a good starting point, albeit a slightly longer route! If for instance you are looking for a legal candidate, follow relevant organisations and then see who follows them. Overall, remember on-line networking should be a great support to in-person networking but equally could be the starting point before you’ve had an informal coffee or more formal meeting. In fact, it is a quicker and easier way to identify potential candidates for roles. Just make sure you differentiate yourself with how you do it, as people are very used to being approached about roles on-line. There really is no excuse, even just spending a few minutes a day can help you build your network, without even having to move from your desk!