Have you ever been to a face to face networking event where everyone was silent, where no-one spoke to you and you didn’t speak to them; where you didn’t even exchange a ‘hello’ and a ‘what brings you here?’ conversation. I haven’t and I suspect that if you did, you’d be disillusioned with the networking scene pretty quickly. After all the whole point of business networking is to meet and talk to people so you can find those you would like to build strong working relationships with, isn’t it?
In online social networking though this seems to be the norm rather than a far-fetched extreme. All too often we receive multiple invitations to connect or become friends with people we barely know and from many others we’ve never even heard of.
Such requests usually come with a standard text along the lines of ‘Linda, I’d like to add you to my professional network’ or even a simple ‘confirm’ link to accept this person into some part of your online life. What intrigues me is the number of people who seem to just blindly accept such requests at face value, seemingly hoping that somehow numbers alone will make their online presence effective.
If I receive such requests you can be sure that I will always reply with a message that contains a longer version of the word ‘why?’ The reason for this is many fold; firstly I am keen to build strong relationships with the people I network with, both on and off line and the only way to do that is to start talking to them. Secondly, they may not even know they have sent the request in the first place because some networks ‘helpfully’ send out connection messages to your entire email address book if you decide to link them together. Finally, I send them because only about twenty per cent of people reply to my messages which mean that those who didn’t reply weren’t really serious about networking online anyway and therefore why would I want them in my network.
Introducing yourself is a critical part of the networking process whether this is in a real room with real people or in a virtual room like LinkedIn and Facebook and this is because you only have a very short time to make a good impression. The introduction should be a message that reminds people who you are, what you do, what sort of connections you are looking for, what value you bring and why you think it’s important to be connected. In essence it is very similar to the one minute presentation we are all used to giving at face to face networking events. It should also give something about what’s in it for your intended connection as well and invite a conversation back.
It is important because it allows the recipient to put you in context and to make a judgement about whether they too feel a connection would be valuable and it sets the tone for the on-going relationship because it demonstrates that you are serious about your online activity when it comes to networking.
By introducing yourself in this way means that you have started out on the right foot and that by saying ‘hello’, shaking a virtual hand and starting a conversation you have begun building the solid foundations that can lead to a much stronger networking relationship in the future.