Build Your Network with the Net
How can you count someone in your network when you have never met them in person?
It might seem a little strange to contact and connect with people via the web if you have never set foot in the same room with them. However, it can be done effectively.
With the Praxis program, participants meet professors and entrepreneurs through oral exams administered on video conference calls. During Praxis weekly discussion groups, guest speakers occasionally join in and contribute ideas or advice. In addition, Praxis alumni and new Praxis participants may make great connections with each other, even if they never step foot in the same state. When meeting people virtually, you can take several steps to reach out to that individual afterward and make a connection. We no longer have to meet in person to have a large and diverse network.
Here are some ideas and tips to keep in mind when using the web as a networking tool.
1. Send a thank you note.
Sending a physical, handwritten thank you note of a few sentences is impressive and allows you to connect beyond the walls of the web. If someone took their time to administer an oral exam for you or speak to you about a certain topic via web chat, consider finding your new connection’s mailing address and writing to them. Include your business card in the envelope. A few days later (around the time they will receive your note), send them an email as well (again with your contact information). Sending an email puts you into their inbox at least once. That way, if you reach out to them again, their email server will recognize your address. With a physical thank you note, you are more likely to make a lasting impression.
2. Connect on Facebook.
If you have cleaned up your Facebook page and keep it professional, consider adding your new contact as a friend. This will allow you to easily interact with them on a more casual and consistent basis. We have all heard the advice to email an article to a new contact that might be of interest to them. Everybody knows this trick. With Facebook, you have the opportunity to make a smart, humorous, or constructive comment on articles or thoughts that your new contact has shared or expressed. Rather than giving them something new to read that you think they might enjoy, you are contributing your thoughts on an article they have already shown interest in.
Adding them as a Facebook friend has other advantages as well. It allows you to see into their world and understand their views and passions much more effectively. Facebook also gives you an opportunity to put your name out there many times with a new connection. Since they have not met you outside the computer, the more they see your name the better. When you finally do meet with them or when you reach out to them virtually, they are more likely to recognize your name. (Note: they probably will not notice if you merely “like” their post. You have to comment if you want to build your name recognition.)
While the internet gives us an opportunity to virtually connect with everyone, you should also prioritize your time spent on this endeavor. Pay attention to contacts who have similar interests, have achieved what you would like to achieve, or who could be potential partners in a future project.
4. Mark your calendar.
If someone asks you to “let them know” about something or “follow up” at a certain time, mark it on your calendar with a reminder. This is crucial. The people you are connecting with are busy. They will forget to follow up with you even if they are genuinely interested in keeping and furthering the relationship. You have to take ownership of follow-ups.
Making connections without meeting in person is a great benefit in our technology-driven age. Our world is shrinking — we are able to meet new people without leaving our home or office. Make the most of these opportunities. If you do it right, it can pay off for both you and your connections.