If you read the previous post, it was all about networking, mostly face to face. This post focuses on e-networking. That is, how you connect to people online. As this is mostly talking about your career perspective, the focus will be on LinkedIn, however please don't underestimate the power of other social media platforms for connecting you to friends and potential work opportunities and networks.
When you've attended a networking event or meeting where you have met new people, hopefully you have asked for a business card from them, and reciprocated. Although you may only hold onto a card for a brief time before it gets relegated to the bottom drawer - or in my case a mug (as per the picture!) the fact that you had been given a card is permission to contact people in the future. Also, with an email address printed on the card, it is easier to connect.
You will notice when you invite a connection via LinkedIn, that you are asked for a category of how you know the person. If you didn't work with the person before, don't have any common groups you are part of, then you may be left with the default "friend" option which can be a little presumptuous at this early stage. If you have a business card from the person you can then simply type in their email address under "other".
Before you shoot off your standard template invite, consider how you might tailor it (briefly - you don't have much space) for who you are sending it to, such as:
"Hello Sam. It was great to meet you at the XYZ conference yesterday.
I'd like to connect via LinkedIn.
Spare a thought for people who return from a conference with a swag of business cards and can't remember who was who! Avoid sending an invite without a personal message - it may mean not using the App for this purpose at this stage (be warned! - it currently fires off without giving you the opportunity to personalise the message). Also ensure that you have a professional photo on your profile rather than a "bubblehead" (no photo loaded), to help them remember you.
Consider these protocols as the handshake and "it was nice to meet you", as if you were face-to-face. If you connect with someone virtually (ie you haven't met them in person but share a similar group or interests or contact), it's even more important to personalise rather than just popping up as a new connection invite. You wouldn't do this in person, without introducing yourself first!
So, hopefully in due course, they will accept your invitation... congratulations, you now have a new contact in your network. Check out their profile so that you know more about them and can perhaps help in some way. (People who pay for the base Linkedin membership may be able to tell that you have viewed their profile).
It's fantastic to have LinkedIn file all your contacts alphabetically with the contacts updating their contact information. When someone moves jobs to another company, the business card becomes defunct, however the LinkedIn connection allows you to remain connected and updated. Hence no need for an elaborate business card filing system!
See how you can assist your connections. I recently connected to a person on Linkedin who consults in the social media space. I sent her a link to some comments about her profession in a group which I thought she'd like to respond to. She did, and was appreciative of the tip off.
Networking is all about making connections and contributions. Whether online or offline, many of the same rules and etiquette apply, don't you think?
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