Many people like to compare online networking with offline networking. However, the thing is, these two are based on the same principle but offer different possibilities. Online networking allows you to connect with an unlimited number of professionals and build relationships with people from all regions of the world. In traditional networking, that’s simply impossible.
In this article, we’ll cover all the most important advantages of online networking, point to some of its drawbacks, and offer practical tips on how to make the most of it.
Online networking includes making and fostering connections with professionals from the industry you work in through digital platforms.
This concept can support and improve all aspects of your career, from professional development to a growing network of connections.
You need to have a clear objective and strategy if you want to make the most of online networking.
Online networking also has some downsides, like the risk of misunderstanding or privacy issues, for instance.
What Is Online Networking?
Online networking is the practice of making professional connections using online platforms. It includes the ability to build, maintain, and expand your online professional connections network and foster quality relationships with professionals within your area of interest.
Just like offline networking requires self-promotion, communication, negotiation, and many other interpersonal skills, so does online networking.
It may seem easy at first glance, but it takes a lot more than a few likes and emojis on a professional social network to cultivate a meaningful online relationship. In fact, it’s a fusion of establishing genuine connections, promoting collaborations, and earning professional recognition.
Additionally, if you don’t like a specific online networking platform, you can easily switch to some other and do so until you find the one that best suits your needs.
5 Benefits of Online Networking
Online networking introduced many innovations and advantages in the business world. In a LinkedIn survey from 2017, 80 percent of working professionals agreed that networking is essential to their success. So, let’s see some of the most significant advantages of online networking in today’s business landscape.
Compared to traditional networking, which may require significant financial resources for travel, event tickets, accommodation, and similar, online networking costs you only your time and effort.
When you are relieved from worrying about what you’ll wear for a certain professional event, how you will travel, and how much you can spend, you can concentrate on more meaningful goals, like meeting the people you admire, for example.
#2. Increased Connectivity
Unlike offline networking, which offers limited possibilities in terms of the location of your connections, online networking transcends geographical barriers and allows you to connect with like-minded professionals from around the globe. Thanks to it, you can learn about different perspectives and make partnerships that would be impossible within a solid network.
#3. Better Accessibility
In contrast to scheduled in-person gatherings, online networking is always available. Despite working in different time zones and having busy schedules, it allows you to participate whenever it is most convenient for you.
This adaptability helps you make networking an integral part of your daily life, which in turn cultivates lasting relationships and lifelong education.
#4. Continuous Learning
As soon as you join any professional onl
ine platform, you will realize it offers an abundance of educational resources. From recommendations for quality articles and tutorials to webinars and all kinds of online networking events, you will find plenty of information on any topic of interest.
Besides that, educational online events can provide you with the opportunity to learn continuously while making new connections. They are also great for staying updated with the latest trends and technologies, exchanging experiences with other people in your industry, picking up the best practices, and identifying the skills you need to develop further.
#5. Better Visibility
By interacting respectfully with other professionals through your chosen online networking platforms, you’re building relationships and boosting your professional reputation.
The value you provide for other participants by making thoughtful comments, sharing first-hand experience, and practical insights will help you gain credibility in an organic way. Moreover, a strong online presence can also help you attract attention from potential clients and employers.
#6. More Job Opportunities
Many companies nowadays avoid announcing job openings through traditional channels but rather choose specialized online networking communities and forums. Therefore, participating in an online business network that brings together professionals in your industry can pave the way to a new job opportunity.
9 Tips for Successful Online Networking
Whenever you find yourself in a new setting, you have to learn its ins and outs to behave properly and fit in. The same applies to online networking. Therefore, here are some insights that will help you make the most of the benefits of online networking.
#1. Define Your Goals
Just throwing yourself into online networking, hitting a few likes, and leaving a few comments will probably get you nowhere. It is essential that you set a clear goal of what you want to gain from online networking platforms. So, it may be a good idea to think about these issues before you start to participate actively in online networking:
Questions in Defining your Online Networking Goals
Do you need to learn more about your industry?
Do you want to advance or change your job?
Do you need advice from more experienced professionals in your field?
Do you plan to expand your business?
Thinking about these issues will help you understand what you want to achieve with online networking. This way, you will be able to focus on what’s really important when you interact with other professionals.
#2. Pick the Right Connections
Picking the right connections is the next most important thing after defining your goals. Quality is more important than quantity here, which means you shouldn’t waste time trying to increase your connection count. Instead, you should concentrate on building meaningful relationships with people who share your interests and goals.
Focus on professionals who work at companies that you’re interested in, and when reaching out, be direct and concise. Articulate your interest in a professional and polished manner, and foster the connections you make this way.
Building meaningful connections supports genuine exchange and facilitates a mutually beneficial environment for learning and collaboration.
#3. Adjust Your Communication Style
The tone and content of your communication needs to be in line with the platform that you’re using and your target audience. For example, you can’t share the same content on Twitter and on LinkedIn. LinkedIn calls for a more formal, polished approach, while Twitter fosters interactive, engaging discussions.
So, the point is to tailor your messages to resonate with your audience and support your objectives. Show professionalism in each interaction you make.
#4. Keep a Positive Tone
When it comes to the tone of communication, there’s not a huge difference between online networking vs in-person networking. Positivity is expected and valued, while a constructive and optimistic tone fosters a conducive environment for both offline and online networking.
Moreover, people are naturally more inclined to engage and collaborate with those who exude a positive attitude, as they perceive them as more successful and professional.
#5. Follow Up
Following up shows the real worth of your network. It can be anything from writing a thank-you note to sending a message after making initial contact with someone.
Besides that, communicating with your contacts keeps you in their minds and can lead to some future collaborations.
#6. Share Your Expertise
Think of the online networking platforms as a place where you can share your professional insights. You don’t have to be exceptionally successful or knowledgable for this—your honesty and personal experience are just as significant, especially to beginners, for example.
If you have a lot to say on a certain topic, feel free to write an article on it. It may spark a useful discussion and connect you with like-minded professionals. Your comments, however basic or elaborate, can inspire someone to consider some option they wouldn’t otherwise think about.
This way, you will slowly build credibility and an excellent reputation, which may attract other people to offer collaborations and other business opportunities to you.
#7. Stay Active
If you want to enjoy the benefits of online networking, you should show up regularly and participate in online interactions consistently. Don’t hesitate to join the conversations that seem interesting to you or share content that can be useful for other people in your industry.
Some people are afraid that online networking might consume too much of their time. But, this is highly individual and industry-dependent. Nevertheless, you can make your own plan on how often you will engage in online networking and check how it works for you along the way.
#8. Stay Focused on Your Goals
Online networking can easily overwhelm you with the abundance of information it offers. You may lose track of your goal, confused with the information that all seems important and urgent at the moment.
Plus, it can be very amusing to interact with other people from your industry. And, while it is not a bad thing to have a bit of fun in the professional context, you should pay attention not to forget the big picture, the primary reason why you joined the online platform initially.
#9. Join Relevant Online Communities
Nowadays, many employers skip the traditional channels when looking for certain types of professionals and post their job openings in specialized online communities. Therefore, you will not make a mistake if you consider online networking platforms as global talent hubs.
When posting and interacting in online conversations, you should bear in mind that recruiters might be scouring the platform as they search for qualified candidates. This is especially important if you’re looking for a new job or a career change.
So, if you are searching for a new job opportunity, make sure to explore relevant online communities thoroughly, as many of them offer access to niche job openings that are not advertised on other channels.
4 Potential Drawbacks of Online Networking
Although online networking offers numerous opportunities, there are also a number of challenges associated with it. Understanding the drawbacks of online networking is essential for making the most of it. So, here’s a list of the most common online networking disadvantages:
Online Networking Drawbacks
#1. Information Overload
Online networking sites can easily overwhelm you with the abundance of content that seems relevant to your career. It can be a real challenge to sort through the deluge of data to find valuable insights or real opportunities.
Besides that, this could take a lot of time, so you must have a clear goal once you decide to get into online networking.
#2. Shallow Connections
Genuine interpersonal connections can feel like an uphill battle in the vast digital landscape. There is a risk that online relationships will lack substance, leading to shallow interactions and no real professional benefit.
#3. Privacy Issues
There is a legitimate privacy concern when discussing your professional or personal life online. It is understandable to be wary of disclosing personal information online due to concerns about misuse or cyber threats.
#4. Communication Mishaps
You can never know how someone can interpret your emoji, your profile photo, or your interpunction. There’s plenty of room for misinterpretation in online communication.
While some risk is inevitable in every kind of communication if you stay professional and polite, chances are you will not make a huge mistake, and that goes for interactions in online networking, too.
Online networking is much more than a way to expand your professional network—it can open the doors to a new job, business partnership, or opportunity for professional growth that would otherwise be unavailable.
Moreover, it’s also evidence of the strength of the human spirit and the need for connection. If you use its powers to your advantage, you can build a strong online presence and foster quality relationships with select professionals. Of course, your online profile can be crucial in attracting new business opportunities your way, so you should work on improving it.
We hope we removed any doubts you might have had about the advantages of online networking. To stay protected from its risks, just remember to stay focused on your goals and keep your interactions polite.