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10 Shortcuts to Networking Online

The Internet is an unbelievable tool for developing professional networks and expanding existing ones. Young adults or new businesses can utilize social media and other platforms to connect to potential partners or clients and build a brand or identity. Older, more established individuals can use online tools to leverage relationships to new heights and extend influence as a thought leader within a community.

Networking can come in many flavors, but above all else the Internet is helpful for boosting credibility and visibility while improving connectivity. Entire industries have specific online communities, and properly using the web is important for extending a professional network.

1. Improve your existing profiles
While most adults have some sort of presence on social media, Monster reported that it can be helpful to reassess the effectiveness of your existing profiles before reaching out to prospective clients or partners. 

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow users to share pertinent facts about themselves, chief of which is contact information. These tools are ways to connect people, but may not be as effective for in-depth communication. A poor bio and missing contact info can make for awkward interactions.

2. Create a personal brand
Young professionals looking to make meaningful connections will likely struggle to stand out among the sea of other individuals who may also lack eye-popping accolades or achievements. Until you are well-established within an industry or business, it can be hard to make an impact.

Use social media to develop a personal brand. Share your passions and accomplishments and make sure the information you share online is clean, professional and consistent. 

3. Expand your digital fingerprint
Within reason, using multiple social media platforms is the best way to boost visibility and the possibility of connecting with someone that will add value to your professional network. Forbes stated that signing up for social media sites is of paramount importance for individuals looking to make meaningful connections.

Depending on the industry, it likely doesn't make sense to sign up for every platform. For example, sites like Pintrest or Instagram may be exciting to use in private life, but add little value to an accountant or executive. For free-lance writers or marketing professionals, however, those sorts of sites may be useful for flaunting creativity or a particular specialty. Pick a few platforms that make most sense for your industry, and use them to share your new personal brand. 

4. Develop young relationships

Networking on LinkedIn or Facebook can be very valuable for first impressions and making initial connections. Instead of visiting conventions or industry-specific events, like-minded individuals can meet online and begin to collaborate and share.

Adding members to your LinkedIn network is only valuable if you take time to nurture the most important new connections. Search Engine Watch stated that this can be done by endorsing someone's skills, joining a similar group or just reaching out with a message or email. 

If there is an individual that would be valuable to your professional networking, making a connection on LinkedIn or Facebook is not enough to build a relationship, but it can be a good start.

5. Connect with old friends

Reaching out to old classmates or colleagues on social media isn't just about nostalgia or sharing photos. These people may be valuable to your business or professional network. Likewise old friends may in turn be connected with important people in your industry and can serve as an important liaison. Old friends or colleagues may have advice, information or connections that can be easy to overlook, but social media makes it easy to uncover these sorts of resources.

6. Make good introductions
Your LinkedIn page or Facebook may be an important first impression for a potential new partner or employer, but when it comes time to correspond through email or over the phone, make every effort to be polite and charming. Because it can be so easy to meet new people online, an awkward or insincere first email may be enough to sour a relationship early on.

Likewise, it is very likely that in the course of developing a professional network online, a peer or colleague may turn to you to make a connection. Be sure to make a good effort here as well because this will reflect kindly on your digital manners. 

7. Follow through
If someone helps make a connection for you online, it is imperative to follow through. Otherwise you risk alienating any potential new partner or employer while embarrassing your existing peer or colleague.

Similarly, if communication between you and a new relationship fizzles out, be sure to find a way to extend the conversation.

8. Go beyond liking
Adding someone on social media and occasionally liking a photo or post isn't enough to maintain a real, meaningful connection. Commenting on a LinkedIn post or article shared on Facebook or Twitter is a way to show you are passionate and thoughtful, as well as potentially open to a conversation where you can demonstrate knowledge and nuance.

Social media is a tool for expanding communication, so be sure to be an interactive new connection online.

9. Flaunt your passions
Social media or a personal blog are great ways to show potential employers and new professional connections what makes you unique and talented as an individual. Sharing news stories on the latest business trends or a scientific study with well-reasoned, appropriate commentary is a way to stand-out from the crowd as someone who is interesting and passionate.

10. Don't be too pushy
Above all else, patience and finesse are crucial for successful online networking. Being too dramatic or eager will come across as insincere or even desperate. The key is to represent yourself as a talented, composed individual through a strong personal brand and well-managed digital fingerprint. This will add credibility to any potential connection and give you a grounding for building your network.

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