Making Effective New Connections Online

Growing your network with people you have only met online is very useful because it gives you access to people you might never meet face to face. Since it is available 24 hours a day it also allows you to do some useful networking during downtime slots while you are waiting to board a plane, in the back of a taxi or just waiting for a conference call to start.

You could just send and accept random connections, but to build fruitful relationships online you will have to take a different approach. There are many ways to approach this problem but here are three practical methods.

Engage in Online Interactions. One simple way to start to build a relationships online is to engage in interactions with other people in online spaces like discussion forums, professional groups and in comment threads where like-minded people meet to discuss their business. Finding the right groups can be a challenge. On LinkedIn alone there are thousands of groups. Some are overloaded with spam and some are completely inactive but there are a few that are well moderated and have a the critical mass of active users who can engage with other users. You will have to try many groups to find the right one, but once you have found it you have already made progress because the active users in good groups are more likely to want to engage with you and to become valued members of your network. Once you have identified a suitable group first follow the discussions without contributing until you have understood the etiquette of the group and also to avoid restarting a discussion that has just finished. When you think you understand the tone of the group and the unwritten rules of engagement you can start to join in the conversation. Be helpful, polite and respectful. Never waste time and be extremely cautious with anything that could look spammy, so dial down the self promotion until you are sure it will be acceptable. By engaging with other users in this way you will build a solid reputation in the forum and soon make some interesting connections.

Develop Your Inbound Marketing. At the same time it can be useful to work on developing a robust online footprint so that like-minded people can find you with a Google search or the built-in search tools on networking sites. This is important because sometimes people are actively searching for interesting new people to connect with. If you come up in Google searches people are more likely to become aware you exist and perhaps try to engage you in conversation themselves. You should have clear and well-maintained profiles on at least Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn plus any specific sites that are relevant for your business.

Monitor Social Media for Leads. Check sometimes on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn from time to time to see if anyone is looking for someone like you. For articles I am writing and lectures I am preparing I sometimes tweet a question. Sometimes a complete stranger will respond because they are interested and after some conversation they usually become good connections. Right now there might be someone who is searching for someone exactly like you. Scanning social sites from time to time might uncover one of these leads. Every day there is someone tweeting that that they would like to get to know someone just like you. Every day there is probably someone posting on Facebook that they are looking for someone with your skills to help on a pro-bono project. Every day on LinkedIn there is someone searching for someone with your expertise to ask advice. Don't miss these opportunities.

There are many other opportunities to make good connections entirely online. All you have to do is go to places where you meet new people, build trust with these people and then make sure that they understand what you do. There are also many online opportunities to identify face-to-face events that will help you to find good connections but that is a story for another post.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing.

Andrew Hennigan designs and delivers lectures, interactive workshops and one-to-one coaching for networking, influencing and other communication topics. For more information call 0046 730 894 475  or email


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