The New Rules of Networking Online: There Aren’t Any

I became a student of how to effectively network at business functions when I met my good friend Mac McIntosh in 2001.

Mac, I discovered, was the consummate face-to-face networker and was a joy to watch. When I bumped into him at local marketing events, he would be quick to introduce me to influential people in the room.

Instead of handing out a business card, Mac always had something of value — a copy of his newsletter, his little calendar card you can tuck into your wallet, etc.

Most important, he always amazed me with the details he remembered about people.

I remember thinking, “Man, I want to be like him!”

So I read lots of books, such as Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty and Endless Referrals.

I repurposed my online newsletter articles to make them look like pages from a magazine and would hand those out versus my business card. I even took my online newsletter and made it a print publication for a couple of years — and would hand that out, too. (It also made a great direct mail piece.)

I got to know people and tried hard to connect faces with names. (That’s my one failing. I don’t remember people’s names but I always seem to remember their details.)

I made myself useful and volunteered for committees.

It worked. I went from not knowing a single soul when I moved to the east coast in 1998 to having the extensive network I enjoy today.

You can find lots of information about social media and the new marketing rules, but here is the one simple truth:

The same good manners you used when you networked face-to-face still hold true when you network online.

  • Be polite and charming.
  • Have a firm handshake.
  • Look people in the eye.
  • Be generous and introduce people to others.
  • Become known as someone who refers people to others — it will come back to you in spades.
  • Don’t interrupt the conversation in order to talk about yourself.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Be helpful by directing people to information / resources.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Know your alcohol limits — i.e. don’t embarrass yourself.
  • Hand write your thank-you notes — people will remember this thoughtful detail.
  • Don’t air your dirty laundry or speak ill of others.

A good rule of thumb for being an effective online networker is this: if you wouldn’t do it, say it, or wear it at an offline business function– or if your mother wouldn’t approve — then don’t do it online.

Do you have tips for successfully networking online? Post them here.

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