Are you looking for strategic business alliances? New jobs? More clients? Networking online opens up incredible opportunities to connect with thousands of people in your industry at the same time, without leaving the comfort of your home. We are just one click away from meeting the most inspiring leaders and celebrities, which before the Internet era would have been just a dream…

However, networking online brings new problems and creates obstacles for those who are unsure how to communicate via distance. In today’s episode I will give you 3 wisdoms (wisdoms usually come in 3, huh?) to live by if you want to effectively network online, and do so with the class and dignity that you and the world deserve.

How to network online wisdom # 1: “Tactics without a strategy is a noise before defeat” – Sun Tzu

Do not leave your networking to chance. You need to strategize all your efforts in order to achieve the desired result. Thus, you should determine the following:

Why do you need to network? (Are you trying to spread the word about your company? Get a new job? Sell your products? Find more clients for your services? Build your reputation?)
Determine which “groups” of people might help you with this goal? (What professions/ industries do your “key people” come from?)
Think, do you have any immediate connections that can lead you to your key people?
If you cannot think of any immediate connections, then think how you can build a bridge between you and your key person? Remember, that we are always just four people away from anyone in the world. So, who are those four people that separate you and your person of interest?

5. Find out where your target audience “hangs out”?

- Where do they congregate on a regular basis?

- What groups on LinkedIn or Facebook do they like?

- What hash tags on Twitter do they use?

- What organizations do they belong to?

- If you visualize the internet as a huge house, where would you find a roomful of these people?

How to network online wisdom #2: What’s efficient might not be effective.

I often receive letters whose authors do not even bother addressing me by my name, but try to sell me something right from the start. Knowing how hard it is to interact at a distance, I try not to take it personally. As a result of this distance, many people act online like they would have not acted face to face…

Just imagine having a conversation at a party. Suddenly, someone comes in and forces their product, a flyer, or a business card on you…. That would be shocking, right? However, this happens all the time in the online environment… We live in the information age where financial and personal “transactions” often happen quickly and free of emotional content. So, resumes, inquiry letters, and sales pitches are bulk sent every day. The logic behind it is, the more letters that are sent, the more opportunities are created… Well, the stats are wrong!

Sure, copying and pasting some parts of the letters can save a lot of time. Yet, when it comes to networking I would strongly recommend against creating a template email and sending it along with your resume/ sales pitch or contract proposals to millions of people across the world. Networking is about building relationships, and long-term relationships deserve special care and handling.

Make sure you make the person you are writing to feel special. Show them that you know their work, and that you are interested in their research or business. Forget the “me, myself, and I” attitude. Try to genuinely feel interested in that person, and what they have to say. Maybe you can be of help to them? Offer to help first; then seek help. So, the overall structure of your initial contact should be highly customized for that particular individual.

How to network online wisdom #3: Everything triples at a distance

Distance has a tendency to zoom in on imperfections and magnify the significance of others.

First, in both my research and personal observations, distance might be more transparent to emotions and people’s dispositions than a face to face environment… Therefore, your energy is contagious and can create a ripple effect among your audience. Make sure that you NEVER approach your computer when you are feeling off balance. Make yourself strong first, and then dive into the Internet interactions.

Second, often people can feel very threatened by the online environment. The distance can make an expert seem unapproachable and almost god-like. Social media networking sites can enhance any type of images people want to project. Therefore, you should never compare your life to the lives of others in general, and to their reflections online in particular. Don’t fall into “I am not as good as… trap”. Who cares how many degrees, or millions of dollars, or publications your “key people” have? In the end, they are all just humans. No better or worse than you. Don’t let self-destructive feelings ruin your networking opportunities.

Think like a champ. Champions always enhance the good that they already have. They don’t focus on what they are missing, or on fixing what they are bad at. They take what they have and make it better. So before starting your networking journey, concentrate on what you have. Make a list, feel it, visualize it, and put that list next to your computer so it becomes a frame of reference to guide any interactions you are about to create online, and conquer that distance!

Author's Bio: 

Marina V. Kostina, PhD is a distance learning expert, a trainer and a teacher. She received her doctorate in Teaching & Learning / Distance Learning from the University of Iowa. She is passionate about research in human psychology in distance learning environments and is happy to share her knowledge with the online teachers and trainers.