By | Shital Kakkar Mehra | Executive Presence Coach for CEOs I Business Communication Expert I Best-selling Author I Co-Founder Katalyst, NGO
Professional networking websites have become extremely popular, offering a platform to connect and communicate with like-minded business persons. How many times have you received an e-invite which reads “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” making you wonder who is this person and have you ever met him? Though the internet has thrived on the basic principle of free information without any censorship, certain “netiquette” rules still apply.
- Your Profile: Like your resume, if there’s nothing unique about it, people will ignore your web presence. Add a little more to the formatted listing of your educational background, professional achievements and photograph.
- Invitation: As this serves as an e-handshake and helps create a good impression, invest time on it. The standard invite will be either ignored or will make you look like a ‘climber’ (somebody who wants to grow their network to impress others). When inviting, make it easy for people, by adding a point of reference – where did you meet, how you know them, etc. Although this takes time, it saves them precious time clicking on your profile, making it easier for them confirm your request.
- Who makes up your network? Establish clarity on who you want and why you want them, making it easier to build your network. At times, we blindly accept requests because either it takes too much effort to research on the person or even after checking their profile, we were still clueless. Would you like to be linked with someone who has dubious credentials/ contacts? Some people have a strategy – only accept invites from people who are either real friends or people they have worked/ communicated with in the past.
- Quality over quantity: Professional networking sites are not a race to see how many contacts you can notch up. Instead, connect with a few and concentrate on converting these into meaningful relationships.
- Strangers: While I agree that limiting your contacts to people you already know defeats the idea behind online networking, make sure you have a good reason to accept requests from complete strangers, as you will be known by the company you keep!
- “No, thank you”: Some people send out invites by the dozen and such random invitations are best ignored. On the other hand, if somebody does not respond to your request, don’t confront/ remind them, gracefully accepting that they did not wish to respond.
- Communicating: Would you ever walk up to a person at a networking event, shake hands and say “Now that we are friends, I am going to ask you for a favor”? Then why expect it from online strangers? Invest time in establishing your reputation by connecting and contributing before requesting for favors/ referrals. Resist the urge to send surveys/ chain mails/ forwards to your contacts.
- Keep business and personal lives separate: Professional sites are for conducting business only. Maintain this divide by not inviting your contacts/ colleagues to join your social network, putting them in an awkward position, as accepting your invite means allowing you access to their private lives too.
View these networks as another networking tool that can be employed to increase your visibility and connections. While internet helps you reach out to more people, the old-fashioned rules of networking still apply.