7 subtle ways to network more effectively online – Business Insider
Take the time to get to know someone’s work background before reaching out. Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr
Networking hacks are everywhere, from mega-connector Jon Levy’s 20 tips to the common mistakes all of us should avoid. While helpful, very few focus on one of the most common forms of networking today: digital.
Naturally, there’s a great deal of overlap between in-person and online networking. And in many ways, building digital relationships is easier. However, it’s not all one-for-one.
In fact, given the ease of digital communication, we have a tendency to underestimate how difficult it is to stand out, especially when we’re trying to connect with influencers and industry leaders.
In the spirit of breaking through, here are seven secrets everyone should know about digital networking.
Great networkers have always known that the shortest route to the right person is not a straight line. Unfortunately, our temptation online is to shortcut this process by reaching out directly to the person we want to connect with via social media or email.
For high-level leaders and influencers, gatekeepers should be your first stop. Think department heads (rather than the C-Suite), administrative assistants (rather than heads), or even junior associates (rather than anyone with a lofty title).
Chrome extensions like Unomy — along with the tools I’ll mention later in this post — can shortcut the finding process by compiling company and individual profiles, contact information, and even associated websites.
There’s a fine line between researching someone online and being creepy. The secret is to only mix personal information into your approach when someone’s shared that information on a public medium.
Services such as LinkedIn search eXplorer for large-scale scaping and LinkedIn’s own Sales Navigator make unearthing those insights and getting systematic far easier. Most helpful on this front is looking for shared educational interests, public groups, causes, and — of course — contacts.
“If you can find a way to add value for a massive number of people,” says Tony Robbins, “you will have an opportunity to have a massive amount of economic abundance in your life.” That’s the golden rule of both business and networking.
The secret online is to add value before you ever start asking.
Small expressions of giving include social sharing, commenting online, and insightful complements via email. Larger expressions could be supporting crowd-funded projects, including their insights in your publications, and (the mother of all value adds) hiring.
Jon Levy recommends cold calling executives before 8 a.m., “because it’s likely that they’re in their office but that their assistant isn’t.”
Digitally, that’s not really the idea. Instead, the right time is about making your approach when the person you’re trying to connect with is most in need.
Nathan Chan bootstrapped Foundr Magazine to a multiple-seven-figures digital media company in three years through interviews with names like Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington. His secret? Turning to the coming-soon pages on Amazon: “Whenever someone’s about to release a new book or product, that’s when they need new connections the most.”
According to Ori Manor, co-founder and CMO at Unomy, “One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is reaching out sans social context. Popping out of nowhere can immediately trigger a negative response. Instead, find and include personal context that elevates trust and gets you the right kind of attention.”
First, it’s no secret shared connections help, but most people overlook shared education, work history, and social causes. Second, as long as you’ve collected a name and company URL from secret one, email permutators are the best method for finding your way into the right inbox.
When composing, the first word of your first sentence should be the second-person pronoun: you. This simple tweak forces you to make it about them.
In person, conversation is king. Digitally, few things are more of a turnoff than long messages.
“Brevity is the soul of wit,” said Shakespeare. And he was right.
Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. If you can’t say it less than five lines, you’re trying to do too much. Make your approach (and all your follow ups) easy to read, easy to understand, and — as the next point will stress — easy to say yes to.
Confusion is an online networking killer.
Even if you’ve incorporated all the previous secrets, ending your messages with “Let me know if you’d like to chat” or “How can I help you?” are really saying: “I didn’t take time to think through what I can do for you nor what you can do for me.”
Instead, ask for the next, smallest action your new relationship can take.
Above all, keep this ratio in mind: one message, one ask.
By night, Aaron Orendorff is busy “saving the world from bad content” at iconiContent. By day, he teaches communication and philosophy at the local college. Aaron Orendorff (@iconiContent) | Twitter