Digital HRDigital TransformationThe most effective ways to network in the digital age

The most effective ways to network in the digital age

With networking being a crucial skill for many businesses to adopt, it's an ability that many do not have due to digital changes. Jeremy Shulham, discusses ways to adapt to the digital age.

Networking is an essential soft skill that isn’t often discussed because it is significantly more personal and more nuanced than some of the more concrete business skills. This ability is also tied to our personalities, so it may not be easy to share how we network with others.

Yet, if we want to successfully build our network in the digital age, there are a few general suggestions we can take on. This is especially true if you are just getting started or feeling a bit out of practice.

Farm Your Existing Social (Media) Network

The first suggestion to becoming a better networker is to farm your existing network. Cultivating leads from people you already know well is a great first step to broadening your reach. A great way to do this is to mine your social media contacts, especially those on professional platforms like LinkedIn. You can also use these sites as research tools, allowing you to do some preliminary background research on individuals and become more selective as you branch out.

Any request of existing contacts should be brief, but specific. Say hello, explain what you are currently involved in professionally, and ask if the person can connect you to anyone based on a need you describe. Your relationship with your contacts should determine how you approach this conversation, but it certainly can’t hurt to ask around.

Seek Out Low-Stakes Interactions

Next, it’s a good idea to prime your skills in low-stakes situations. When trying to develop a business partnership or close an important deal, relationships become important. However, the relationship between you and the cold caller or customer service agent is less crucial. The point here is that you should refine your ability to participate in small talk and be interesting with those people you rarely encounter. This can also work with people you know very well. Further, these conversations – whether face-to-face or otherwise – are not likely to raise your level of anxiety, therefore you can feel free to experiment and work on your interpersonal skills as often as you like.

Remember People

Fortunately, technology makes it easier than ever to remember people. Sure, names and numbers are easily stored on our mobile phones, but beyond the rolodex are items like personal interests, family matters, and expertise. Take the time to get to know who people are and be sure to record a few notes with their contact information to refer back to later. This can be especially helpful when looking to collaborate with an individual again in the future.

Follow Up With Everyone

Within a reasonable time frame, it is necessary to check in with business contacts. In addition to reminding someone of your potential partnership, it also helps to be persistent in your ask. Amidst our daily tasks, it often takes a little extra push to get us to go out of our way to help others. So don’t be afraid to continuously reach out to maintain a developing relationship. And, if you find an email doesn’t do the trick, try picking up the phone or suggesting a plan to meet up via social media. Just be sure not to harass potential colleagues as this will likely have the opposite of the desired effect.

These suggestions may seem quite rudimentary and to be honest, they are. But it remains true that the only way to become a better networker is to put yourself out there and interact with others over and over again. You’re likely to meet people you never wish to speak to again, but you may also meet lifelong friends and business contacts in the process.

Jeremy Shulman, Chief Editor, Subscriptions and Product at InterActive Pro and Edology.com

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