Whether you run a business or not, networking is an essential part of your professional career. If you own a business, or you’re in sales, networking builds genuine connections with others that can help grow your business. But let’s not forget about those of you who are not in sales. Networking is still an important aspect of your career! You may not realize it since the majority of people who go to networking events are either business owners or sales professionals, but building a network is beneficial for everyone.

Think about it for a minute. Do you plan on staying in the same position your whole career? Do you want to advance in your career? Do you have a contingency plan if you were to be let go tomorrow? All of these things are important for you to think about no matter where you are in your career.

Building your network is investing in your future, and social networks have made it easier to connect with the right people. Here are some things to remember when building your network online:

  1. The Golden Rule of Online Networking: Put others needs before your own.
    • I can almost bet you’ve received LinkedIn connection requests from people you don’t know. Being the nice person that you are, you connect with them and a short time later you receive InMail from that person with a canned sales message. DON’T be that person! Once you put that bad taste in someone’s mouth it’s almost impossible to get it back. Instead, if you want to meet someone you found on LinkedIn, ask them to grab coffee and learn more about what they do and how you might be able to help them in the future. That goes a long way in building a stronger network.
  2. Be Genuine.
    • Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social platform, take the time to provide genuine comments. DON’T just spam people with generic comments because they can see right through that. Social media is meant for conversations, so craft genuine comments when you have something positive to add.
  3. Help Online Friends Connect with Others.
    • We’re all out for the same goal. If you connect with someone that would be a great connection for someone else you know, introduce them to each other!
  4. Don’t Hide Behind your Screen.
    • Like I said before, don’t be afraid to connect with your digital friends face-to-face. Grab breakfast, coffee, or a drink after work and take some time to get to know them personally. Nothing is better than meeting in person with someone that you don’t have an opportunity to meet with very often. It’s also easier to get to know someone when they are right in front of you.