In this article:  Digital platforms offer an alternative option for networking, Calibre Group’s Sabina Hegarty gives her advice for getting the most from them

In the past, networking was reasonably simple: attend meetings, conferences and specific events, where you could have conversations and make contacts with others in the industry. This early introduction was often followed up with a call or email and a relationship was built. But that’s changed.

Physical meetings and large gatherings are now less common, meaning we all need to think digitally. But don’t worry there are advantages to this new, enforced shift – it offers a huge opportunity to connect with like-minded people in similar job roles and industries on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook for Business and you aren’t limited to who’s in a single room.

But there are some things you should consider before bombarding people with connection requests. Here are five things you should consider.

1.    Be strategic so you’re heard above the noise

Digital platforms are busy places at the moment, with many people promoting their products at a time when businesses are still trying to make plans to get on their feet. So, you must network in a much more strategic way and not use the scattergun approach.

2.    Professionalism

We must remain mindful that professional business platforms such as LinkedIn require a different style of communication to sites such as Snapchat or TikTok, and should be used with discretion and care if you are to be seen as credible business people.

The language you use on personal social media platforms is obviously casual and relaxed, but wording for business should be more formal, though it can still be warm and friendly. Messages should be polite, professional, not overtly familiar and never pushy. Slang, emojis, GIFs and memes are best used with friends and family.

3.    Know your audience

In order to network effectively in the digital world, we must be targeted and specific in our approach. For example, there is no value in having thousands of LinkedIn connections if 80% of them are from outside your sector or target area. Unless of course, you’re looking to grow your business and contacts further afield.

Identify a number of people to connect with, with whom you share some common ground. This doesn’t mean stalking Facebook profiles and using their personal information to open a dialogue, but focus instead on their business profile and what they’ve written about on the professional platforms, articles, blogs, in magazines or podcast interviews and any contributions they have made to the business community.

Follow them, and their posts will turn up on your feed, giving you the opportunity to like and share your comments. They are more likely to engage with you if they think you’re interested in what they do and say, rather than just who they are and the position they hold.

Remember that not everybody is on their professional platforms all the time and therefore may not see your request for a few days. Inundating them will not help your cause.

4.    Understand the algorithms

The ultimate aim of a digital platform is to get engagement from as many people as possible, for as long as possible, and as often as possible.

Platform algorithms enhance or reduce your visibility depending on how you behave on the network. For example, if you send out hundreds of requests to random people and get no acceptances, the algorithm will reduce your reach as your actions are not creating engagement for their platform. If, however, you send out 10 requests to a targeted audience in your sector with whom a relationship may be mutually beneficial and get eight acceptances, then the algorithm will reward you by enhancing your profile and visibility, because your actions have created positive engagements.

Something that surprises many people is that on LinkedIn and some other platforms, your posts will only appear in the timelines of around 2%-3% of your entire network. The more engagement you have with other people’s content and they have with your content, the more visible your profile will become and therefore more people within your own network and elsewhere will see you and your posts.

5.    Get your profile sorted

Firstly, get your own house in order. Have a look at your profile on both your professional and personal platforms because this is what people see when you request to connect. Is it up to date? Write an opening statement and then make your profile succinct and clear and not too boasty.

Make sure your jobs and qualifications are listed and also include hobbies and interests. Check for accuracy on dates on your CV and make sure they are true, correct and consistent.

Also make sure that anything really private on your personal social media platforms, that you don’t wish to share with a prospective employer or client, is either made private or removed. Employers are especially keen on looking at people’s personal profiles before they even invite them for an interview.

My top tip is: keep it clean!

Calibre Group design and deliver Digital Training for Sales, Service and Finance modules to the automotive sector, with EQ and mental well-being an integral part of all its programmes.

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