The Savvy Networker

The Savvy Networker
10 Must-Do's for Online Networkers
Sunday, January 4, 2009

When my 81-year-old dad sent me a LinkedIn invitation, I knew some milestone had been passed.
It's an online-networking world, and working people who aren't already on the bandwagon need to catch up, fast. Here are 10 tips to help you get your online networking activities going without ruffling any feathers:

1. Get a new "one"

You'll need a ONE -an online networking e-mail account - just for use in discussion groups and social networking sites. If you don't get an account just for this purpose, you may find your "regular" home e-mail address (or, worse, your work address!) beset by spam messages and bacn (social networking spam). Get a new address at Yahoo! or another free-e-mail site today, and use it for all of your online networking adventures.

2. Find your group

Yahoo! Groups is the epicenter of group online discussion, with 10 million groups covering every topic from search engine optimization to moms working from home. Search for a group that suits your taste and then join it, taking care to read the group's membership guidelines before you plunge into the conversation.

3. Stake your claim

MySpace, Facebook and a zillion other high-profile sites are fun and diverting, but LinkedIn is the place for business networking, and basic membership is free. Create a profile and invite your friends to become first-degree connections with you on LinkedIn - your friends will be able to share your contacts and vice versa.

4. Find your inner TwitterJoin Twitter to keep your network updated on your daily doings, in 140-character increments. Follow other people on Twitter to learn about cool Web sites and online tools, be directed to provocative blog posts and generally keep on top of what's up among the people you know and admire.

5. Reach out, with tact

Go ahead and write to people you meet online - that's what online networking is all about. When you do, lead off with a subject line like "Loved your blog" or "I see that you're interested in astrophysics, like me" rather than "I need your help" or "Here's my resume." Speaking of resumes, never, ever send your resume to a person who hasn't asked for it. You wouldn't send a stranger pictures of yourself - so keep your resume until/unless someone asks you for it.

6. Don't poach contacts

When you belong to an online discussion group or meet people on LinkedIn, it's OK to contact people one-on-one in regard to a topic they've written about. It's not OK to spam people with sales pitches or add them to the subscriber list for your newsletter. And, it's not OK to harvest e-mail addresses from an online group for your own use.

7. Be grateful

When an online networker writes to you with advice (on LinkedIn Answers, in response to a question you posed to him or her, or in an online discussion group), write back and say thanks. That little touch marks you as a thoughtful online networker.

8. Remember the basics"Please," "thank you," and "I'm very appreciative of your time" are just as appropriate in the online sphere as they are in your neighborhood. Don't forget the niceties just because you're communicating virtually.

9. Play with Ning

Jump over to Ning to explore social networks that Ning users have created on every topic under the sun, and join one of them to learn more about communication and advice-sharing in the social networking arena. Ning lets users set up their own social networks on the fly, so feel free to launch JerryWorld or some other networking site once you get comfortable.

10. Watch your signature

If you're going to use online networks and discussion communities, be sure to delete or shorten a long e-mail signature. Don't subject your online contacts to the same never-changing quote, a list of all your favorite books and Web sites, or any other information that's more than three lines long. We love you and everything, but a little e-mail signature goes a long way.