What Is Online Networking? (And How To Do It)

By Chris Kolmar
Oct. 11, 2022

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You’re likely familiar with the concept of networking, which is the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. This is often done at professionally organized events such as conferences and seminars.

But can networking be successfully done online? Absolutely.

To help you with your online networking journey we have put together how to network online and provides some tips to get you started.

Key Takeaways:

  • Online networking uses the same principles of traditional networking just done using digital tools instead of face-to-face interactions.

  • Creating an online presence using social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter can help you online network.

  • It’s important to be patient, it can take some time to build your following.

What Is Online networking? (And How To Do It)

What Is Online Networking?

Online networking utilizes the same principles of traditional networking to meet and exchange information with business professionals, but it’s done using digital tools to form connections instead of the usual face-to-face interactions.

In some cases, online networking is a preferential alternative for people who are introverts by nature or maybe just uncomfortable trying to connect with strangers in a social setting.

In other cases, networking online is simply more convenient, especially when pandemic precautions have largely put a stop to gatherings.

How to Network Online

There’s a lot more to online networking than uploading your resume to LinkedIn and hoping to make the right connection. Below is a list of ten strategies that are guaranteed to help you network online like a pro:

  1. Start with warm calls. When you make a warm call, you’re utilizing someone in your existing network with whom you are already familiar on some level.

    This can include ex-colleagues, past teachers, acquaintances, professionals you met at a networking event, and other people you may have lost touch with over the years. Your warm call may be as simple as a quick check-in, or perhaps you’re seeking advice or help.

    It’s good practice to do a little research on the person before making the call. For example, take a look at social media and see where your contact is currently working and what his or her job title now is.

  2. Join or create an online mastermind. If you aren’t familiar with the term, think of a mastermind as a matchmaking group, but for business. It’s a group of like-minded people meeting to get peer support, brainstorm ideas, and hold each other accountable.

    You can find mastermind groups on sites such as Reddit, Meetup, and even Facebook.

  3. Introduce your networks. You’ve no doubt noticed that certain people within your network already know each other, based on their skills, strengths, and personalities.

    • When connecting two people within your network, make sure it’s not a random matchmaking service. You want to provide value to each contact.

    • For example, say you know someone who is looking for a job in eCommerce, and you also happen to know someone whose business is growing quickly and hiring for several positions, including eCommerce.

    • Both of your contacts would benefit from an introduction. You might send a short and to-the-point email that says something along the lines of:

      Hey, Chris!

      It was great seeing you last year at the conference! I know an entrepreneur who is growing her eCommerce team to keep up with the rapid growth of her business, and I thought your skill set would be a perfect asset if you’re still browsing the job market. Her name is Madison, and she owns Sell Stuff. Would you like me to introduce you?

    • A reference can have a major impact on a job application. Chris and Madison in this example are likely to benefit from having you as a mutual acquaintance, and they may be in a position to give you a hand in the future. What goes around comes around.

  4. Be the tortoise, not the hare. Surely you remember the childhood story of the great race between the tortoise and the hare. The hare was so far in the lead that he let his guard down and took a nap, giving the tortoise enough time to overtake him.

    By the time he woke up and made a mad dash to the finish line, it was too late. Moral of the story? Slow, steady, and consistent wins the race if you stay focused on the finish line and don’t become discouraged when your competitors pull ahead. So, what does that have to do with networking?

    • Remember that the ultimate key to networking is to offer value. You want to make connections that are trustworthy and have confidence that the return on your investment will come eventually.

    • If you act like a hare, you’re the type of person to skip the nurturing phase of a relationship and jump right into, “what can you give me?” These types of connections are weak, shallow, and untrustworthy, and they most certainly won’t stand the test of time.

    • By acting as a taker instead of a giver, your contacts aren’t going to have much incentive to help you out.

    • Be a giver. Take the time to get to know your connections and find out what value you can provide to them before you ask for anything in return. Slow and steady wins the race.

  5. Send a snail-mail surprise. Back when email was still new, people were much more excited to hear the ding of a new message in the inbox than they were to sift through the stack of envelopes sitting on the counter.

    • But now in today’s digital world, snail mail, especially handwritten letters, is a welcome break from the norm.

    • People are excited to receive old-fashioned mail. Not only is a handwritten note a nice change from the flood of emails that come in every day, but it’s also a sign of genuine attention.

    • It took more time to write the letter, seal it in an envelope, stamp it, address it, and drop it in a mailbox than it would to sit down at a computer, compose an email, and type that same message, which would likely get lost in an inbox.

    • Snail mail will help you stand out. It’s a great way to say thank you or congratulations, or just touch base and brush the dust off an old contact you haven’t spoken to in a while.

  6. Join a high-stakes activity. No, that doesn’t mean go bet all your money on a poker game. It means you can form a strong connection to the people in your network by bonding over common activities.

    In some ways, it’s similar to a mastermind, but more relaxed since you’re talking about hobbies instead of work.

  7. Network online with social media. You don’t have to stick to the business-oriented LinkedIn to utilize social media platforms for networking (although LinkedIn is not a platform to scoff at).

    Many professionals go so far as to include a link to their LinkedIn profile on their resume. Brushing up on some LinkedIn profile tips never hurts.

    Facebook and Reddit have plenty of groups you can join and follow. Even Twitter, Instagram, and others can be useful if you play your cards right when interacting with potential new contacts.

  8. Build your following. Perhaps it’s important to note that this should be done with organic, not paid, followers, which takes a lot more time and effort.

    Blogging can have a huge impact on attracting like-minded people to your network and open the door to freelance writing opportunities. It also allows you to create a mailing list. If you aren’t a writer, reshare posts that your network will like to keep them engaged.

  9. Swipe right to find your network. Instead of browsing sweethearts, some apps allow you to browse business connections.

    Shapr and Invitly are two alternatives to LinkedIn that have a similar “swipe right” setup as Tinder but show you relevant professionals to network with instead of potential love interests. Better make sure your professional headshot is up to date.

  10. Bridge the gap. We’re all guilty of letting contacts in our network gather dust and cobwebs.

    By keeping up with regular maintenance, even if it’s just a quick check-in occasionally, you’ll have much better luck keeping long-term, meaningful relationships with your professional network.

    Otherwise, you’re doing all this work to meet new people and then letting those connections wither away over time.

The Power of Networking

While it’s possible to land a new job without connections, the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” definitely holds merit.

  • Making the right connection can help you in a myriad of ways, whether you need some advice from a professional, you’re looking for a job close to home, or you want feedback on a new idea or several other topics related to your career, business, or profession.

  • Remember to be the tortoise. You might meet someone now who could help you find a new job five years in the future, but that requires the initial investment of meeting that contact and exchanging personal information, followed by the continual work of maintaining the connection on a professional level.

  • A healthy network needs to have variety. Try not to limit yourself to targeting professionals who are all in the same line of work.

  • You may very well discover value in talking to people who aren’t in your career field but still provide a unique insight into business strategies and marketing techniques that can impact your company.

  • You also never know where you’ll be in your professional career in the next two, five, ten years. Maybe you’ll want to start your own business, and knowing a startup recruiter will prove to be a valuable asset. Or perhaps you’ll decide to change careers, and you’ll need some guidance or even a referral.

Start growing your network now to reap the benefits of a well-maintained and expansive network later.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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