By Biana Babinsky
As more and more people get online, they realize that the Internet is no longer an obscure scientific playground. In fact, as an ever-increasing number of people log on, a vast array of services catering to different needs and desires of the online community are constantly appearing on the net. We all have used some of these services in real, “offline” life, but may have never realized that they could be translated (albeit slightly altered) to an online version. Popular online services include searching for a job, having groceries delivered right to your house, ordering pizza online and … networking online.
Intrigued? What image do you conjure up when someone mentions networking? Chances are you envision a room full of nametag-bearing people coming up to you to introduce themselves, give you their business card (and the ever-important 30 second speech) and generally mingle. How does all of this work online? There is a wide variety of avenues to network online, ranging from the highly interactive, like chat rooms, to delayed mechanisms like newsgroups, message boards, and a mushrooming number of sites tirelessly trying to prove that there really are only six degrees of separation between all of us. Typically, these online meeting places are designed to attract a particular interest group and are limited to certain topics. To mingle, you introduce yourself, and then offer your opinion on topics that interest you, ask questions and share ideas.
There are two distinct kinds of online networking: one is social networking, which includes finding dates, pen pals, and activity partners, such as somebody to complete your Thursday night’s bridge game. Social networking enables you to exchange recipes, discuss the latest sushi-making techniques, find other Lord of the Rings fans, and locate singles groups in your area. Let us pause as we bring you a public service announcement: use common sense. It is very easy to create an online personality that is distinct from the offline one. If you decide to meet your online acquaintances in person, do so in a group setting in a public place.
The other kind is business networking, something that all business owners should participate in on a regular basis to promote their professional efforts. You can get exactly the same (or better!) results by participating in online networking as you might by face-to-face networking. Meet other business owners, discuss how to promote your company and industry better, offer advice, submit your articles to be published, talk about your business, and much, much more! Blatant self-promotion is discouraged, but subtle hints about the obvious superiority of your products and services may net you new clients.
The growth and continued well-being of a business, whether online or off is predicated on developing long-term, productive relationships with other business owners and individuals in your target market. Such relationships are invaluable, as people who like you and are confident in the quality of your products or services will be eager to recommend your business to other prospects in your target market. Most likely you would have never met these potential clients otherwise. Word-of-mouth advertising really does work, as long as you do it right!
Online business networking is an exciting new way to expand the growth potential and support systems of your business. In future articles we will discuss business networking in depth, venues for business networking, setting goals and expectations, and everyone’s favorite: getting results from business networking!
About the author: Biana Babinsky is an online marketing expert who has helped many business owners attract more web site customers, bring in more online publicity and increase the bottom line. Visit http://www.avocadoconsulting.com to subscribe to her newsletter full of marketing tips and ideas.