Networking the Net

Ah, the friendly confines of your computer desk. Here, none of your colleagues are going to notice how much you say the word like or how often you touch your face. It’s the perfect place to make professional connections at your own pace. Just follow these commonsense guidelines.

Take Social Media Seriously.

Skill with social media is one of the six strengths Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D., identifies in Quiet Influence. Social media can lead to closer connections. “Use social media to set the stage for offline conversations and then capitalize on the one-on-one opportunities you generate,” Kahnweiler says.

Develop a Public Persona.

I’m not shy online (or off, for that matter), but I keep two Facebook accounts—a private one for friends and family, where I can be my usual goofball self, and a professional one, where I’m more focused on professionally relevant links and discussions. For introverts, who often are private people, having an alter ego can be a more comfortable way to put themselves out there online. (For inspiration, look at Steve Martin, an introvert whose public alter ego is loud and silly.) You don’t have to be an entirely different person; it’s more a matter of approaching social networking as part of your job and acting as your professional self online.

Be Generous.

If you use social networking only to tout your own achievements, people will quickly tune you out. Share interesting links, share the wisdom of others, congratulate colleagues on their successes, respond to requests for help, and do your part to assist others in promoting their good work. Networking is all about relationship-building, so always think in terms of making connections, not just talking at people.

Display Expertise.

“Regularly and consistently position yourself as an expert to share your knowledge, learn from others, gain visibility and broaden your network,” Nancy Ancowitz says. By making thoughtful comments on others’ blogs, being generous with advice and suggestions when solicited, and sharing resources, you publicly demonstrate that you know your stuff.

Try Blogging.

If you don’t have or want your own blog, offer to write guest posts for blogs you admire. A blog is a hungry monster and always needs good content—many bloggers are happy to have someone fill in for them now and then. A good blog post will display your expertise to a whole new network of people forever, because blog posts live on in cyberspace.

Take It Offline.

Make the most of every opportunity to meet (in real life) the people you know in the virtual world. This serves to cement relationships and take them to another level. If you know some of your online connections will be at a conference you plan on attending, seek them out to say hello. You already have an entrée because you have interacted online, which should eliminate any awkwardness you might feel.

If you struggle with small talk, cheer up: You can make important connections without being the life of the party. Read "The Introvert's Guide to Networking" on to find out how.

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Sophia Dembling is the author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.

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