Making connections has been a cornerstone of the business world for centuries and millennia; however, there are some who believe that such a thing no longer holds in the digital world. Imagine a scenario where you are an average freelancer looking for work.
The chances are that you’ll register on a freelancer platform, thus automating their job search efforts and even further alienating themselves from a potential employer. Even if they did need some professional assistance, they are more likely to look for it on a site like Fiverr, rather than to contact someone they know personally.
Still, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, some means of networking may not be available to one working in a virtual workplace; nonetheless, it’s undeniable that the internet has changed some things for the better, even in the field of networking.
In other words, things haven’t necessarily changed for the worst… they’ve just changed. This means that there’s no room for desperation, no room for lamenting and all you have to do now is adapt to this new set of circumstances.
Here are some tips to help you start making friends and business partners in the digital age.
1) Read about the traditional networking
Even though the channels of communication might have changed, the basic principles of what makes people like, trust, dislike or distrust you have not. This means that reading a thing or two about the traditional networking might still be more than worth your while.
The best place to look for these answers of what to do to make a good impression on people is still Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
For those who came here for a couple of quick tips, the key point is that you should avoid criticizing opinions, be genuinely interested in other people, become a much better listener and make others feel important when talking to them. All of this can be achieved in the digital environment, as well.
2) Utilize networking platforms
In the introduction, we might have made it seem as making connections in the digital world is much harder than doing so in the traditional way. If we did, indeed, do so, this was not our intention. You see, some networks like LinkedIn can rightfully be considered as networking platforms, while other social media may help you out in this regard, as well.
For those interested in such a thing, on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, you can easily find people from your line of work. Most of the time, these platforms will suggest these people as contacts, friends and follows, to begin with.
Nonetheless, before you make contact, you should probably read a thing or two about the network’s etiquette. Contacting people, you’ve never met or talked to before will always appear a tad suspicious, which is why some preparation on the topic may do you a world of good.
For instance, sending a message to people you don’t know on LinkedIn is a delicate art and it is something that should be thoroughly researched.
3) You can still meet people in person
Just because you’re working in a digital environment, it doesn’t mean that you have no means of meeting people from your industry. Namely, visiting conventions, seminars and essential industry events will give you plenty of opportunities to mingle and make connections. Public speaking is another excellent idea, but it’s not something that everyone is comfortable with.
Aside from this, there’s another method that you could turn to your advantage. Due to all of the disadvantages of working from home (mostly in the fields of network and productivity), more and more freelancers are opting for shared office spaces.
So, for instance, if you are an Australian freelancer and you start working from a serviced office in Sydney, you might soon be chatting by the water cooler with a person capable of turning your career by 180 degrees.
And this trend is spreading from Australia to other parts of the world. Who knew that the Land Down Under could turn your world upside down? These are some windows of opportunity that are unavailable to those who decide to stick to working from home, making it into a pretty strong competitive advantage.
4) Do your research
Another significant advantage that networking in the digital era provides you with is the ability to do your research on people even before contacting them. You would be surprised at just how many information people put on public display, and there are usually some incredibly useful facts here.
For instance, knowing that a person is a vegan before inviting them to a business dinner can be a deal-breaker. Aside from this, knowing a thing or two about their hobbies and interests can help you find a perfect ice-breaker or a conversation starter.
While this may seem like something of minor significance, it makes all the difference in the world, and it is, beyond doubt, something that Dale Carnegie would endorse, had this option existed in his era.
5) Remember that it’s a two-way street
It sounds logical that you’re more interested in people that you need than in the people who need you. Nonetheless, this is not always the case in the business world. Sometimes, you won’t be the one making a lucrative connection. Instead, you might end up being the contacted party. The bigger the name and the industry authority you are, the more significant are the chances that such a thing will happen.
One of the ways to achieve this is by making your LinkedIn profile more visible in search results. Think of this as a bit of DIY SEO for your brand.
Once you get accustomed to this new rules, you might soon forget that networking ever looked different. The world of networking is evolving in strange ways – and it is up to you to use it as your advantage. More importantly, because the majority of freelancers remains, more or less, oblivious to this fact, this provides you with a unique competitive edge.