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Just a few decades ago, networking meant attending conferences and events and handing out a business card. But fast forward to 2022, and networking is increasingly taking place online. This was a big deal even before the global pandemic ushered in the era of remote work and Zoom calls, but now we truly live in an age where digital connectivity is the norm.
While this means more opportunities to connect with a larger pool of people and connect with those who would previously have been taboo, it also brings with it a whole new set of networking etiquette and methods.
Here are a few basic principles to keep in mind as you navigate this new world.
Approach communication with a “less is more” mentality
Your goal shouldn’t be to try to connect with everyone and their grandparents. A few superficial connections might give you the satisfying feeling of having been “productive,” but unless you’re lucky, it’s unlikely to be particularly useful in the long run. The digital world tends to favor a quantity over quality approach, inundating us with constant noise and an endless pool of new connections.
Try to have the following five categories of connections:
- 3-5 People you can use as a sounding board for advice and support with your most vulnerable.
- 5-15 People you can ask for help with specific questions.
- 15-200 People who are acquaintances you may contact from time to time.
- 200-1,500 People who are more distant contacts that you can reach out to, but with whom you have only a limited relationship.
- 1,500+ People who may follow you on social media but don’t connect with you directly.
Focus on them in that order. There’s no point in becoming an influencer if you don’t even have a handful of mentors or close colleagues you can trust.
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Be careful with your written communications
Everyone has a different idea of how formal online communication should be and how to interact with others, but I encourage you to apply the “less is more” approach to your written communication as well. It’s no secret that attention spans are decreasing, so make allowances by keeping your messages and posts as concise as possible.
Drop the fluff and don’t need two sentences to convey a message that you could convey in a single line. If you need a few lines to get your point across, break it up with plenty of white space, which makes it easier for the reader to skim what’s being said and come to a quick conclusion. This applies not only to posting and commenting on the web, but also to any message or email you may send.
One way to increase the likelihood that someone will read what you have written is to use emojis. They’re not just for the kids – they’re a great way to express yourself and add a touch of color and personality to what you say. Some people worry that a potential contact or employer will not take them seriously, but this is rarely the case. Five billion emojis are used every day, and they’re fast becoming a universal language. Why not use them?
Finally, try to offer a combination of content in your LinkedIn posts. Instead of always posting about your personal experiences or commenting on current events, mix things up by doing a little bit of everything. Ideas include:
- Industry Updates
- Motivating and encouraging content
- videos and pictures
And don’t forget to comment on other people’s posts! It can be exhausting to keep up with, but luckily there is a solution.
Automate your contact whenever possible
One of the greatest advantages of living in the digital age is that everything can be automated – from sending emails to running advertising campaigns. But you don’t have to be a company selling a product or service to reap the benefits of automation; You can also use it in your job search.
Automation is especially powerful for anyone looking for a new role, but it’s also effective for those who just want to build their network and be open to any opportunities that may come their way in the future.
Also see: Building the right network for your business
Always be sincere
Networking is a daunting process and tends to bring out our worst fears. You may be afraid that people will judge you for speaking your true opinion or showing your true personality – but in most cases they recognize the authenticity of what you do and respect it.
For example, LinkedIn posts that rant about the platform (e.g., saying it’s too smug or cliche) often perform surprisingly well. People often enjoy watching others break taboos.
Check out this controversial post for a case study. It may seem like the post will tarnish the user’s reputation, but the account has more than 50,000 followers and regularly brings in thousands of post likes. Maybe you don’t want to push things that far – just stay true to yourself and do what feels right for you instead of trying to fit into a mold.
You should even be authentic with your automation. This might sound like a contradiction, but it’s up to you what automation settings you choose and how you use the automation. For example, will you be open about using automation or try to hide it? Will you create automated message templates that are more playful or more formal?
Just because something is automatic doesn’t mean you can’t add your personal touch.
New environment, same people
A lot has changed in the networking space in the last decade, but human nature has stayed the same. At the end of the day, by and large, people want the same things and act in the same ways — it’s just that the interaction is more online than in person.
Do what feels right for you, focus on quality over quantity, and automate when you can. The rest is up to you.
Related: Effective networking requires mastering these 5 skills