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- Research the most appropriate networking sites to meet your objectives and reach your target audience. There are many options, such as chat rooms, web forums, social networking sites and mailing lists.
- Ask yourself, do you need to be a member of one or several online communities to tap into your target audience?
- Use different sites for professional and personal networking to avoid diluting your impact and personal brand.
- Once you have identified your preferred sites, create a personal profile. Think about how you want to be perceived and the key elements that define your personal brand.
- Your profile is the centre of your presence in online communities, so be descriptive. List your career history, specialities, and your groups/associations. Invest as much time in your profile as you would your CV.
- Upload a professional photo. This will increase your chances of success, making your profile more personal.
- Size is not important when it comes to online networking; it is more about your objectives for developing the network in the first place. What are you looking for? What can you do for your contacts? And what people do you need to interact with and why?
- When creating your network, consider the merits of each invitation to connect that you send and receive on a case-by-case basis. Think about whether your network would benefit from having them as part of it.
- When inviting people you don't know well to connect, spend time explaining the benefits of joining your network and who your network consists of.
- Gather quality recommendations from trusted contacts relevant to your past and present experience. These are very powerful endorsements.
- Return the favour and actively recommend others. On social networking sites your name will appear on the profile page of the person you have recommended, and more people will connect to you as a result.
- If you engage in discussion forums, ensure your comments mirror your personal brand and values, whether you are agreeing or disagreeing, as contacts will judge you on the quality of your writing/comments.
- Show your professionalism and answer questions in forums. Be informative and give good advice.
- Help with introductions. It only takes a few minutes and you might open business opportunities for someone who will be very grateful and might do the same for you one day.
Read Part 1 - effective networking