Online social networking tools give you the power to expand and manage your network with an efficiency and effectiveness that were virtually unheard of even a decade ago. It's no longer who you know but who you know online that counts when closing deals, making a career move or organizing a local charity function. The authors of The Virtual Handshake -Teten a CEO and online networker extraordinaire; Allen an entrepreneur-tell their story from hard-earned personal experience and research that spanned over 300 sources.
Settling into our careers, we were taught the old school methods for networking. Glad handing and card flashing at evening mixers where all you could do was hope to meet someone with whom you could form a connection. Not to mention that most networking events seemed tailor made for extroverts only! According to Teten and Allen, online networking, already a fast-growing professional tool, proving to be a highly effective means for growing, cultivating and managing personal networks many times larger than most of us ever dreamed possible.
Getting started is simple, or so say the authors. Most of you reading this probably have anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred contacts just sitting in your computer, on your PDA or, gasp...the old Rolodex on your desk. The trick is to get those people out of your Rolodex and into the online network tools scene where you can really flex your networking muscle.
According to Teten and Allen, getting started with online networking isn't the challenge you might think it is. In fact, 84 percent of us have already used the Internet to contact or get information from an online group, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
The authors have even put together a ten-step action plan to get started with online social networking. Here are six of the ten steps:
1. Write down your goals and how a virtual relationship could help you achieve it.
2. Analyze your current network.
3. Make the mundane sublime. Common office productivity tools combined with e-mail and the Internet are very powerful
4. Become and information sponge (and send that information to people you know).
5. Master your email.
6. Share your knowledge wealth with your network.
The book is not all how-to and action item lists, however. Teten and Allen understand that networking is about altruism, sharing, doing what is in another's best interest and giving of yourself to the network. Speaking from my own personal experience, they're on to something there. In networking, you must give to receive.
Whether or not you choose to participate in online social networking, it will impact us all in some way. It's just as likely that your next client comes from within a salesperson's online social network as it is that someone is using Google right now to learn more about you in hopes of expanding their network.
The Virtual Handshake is a resource for anyone trying to build a professional or personal network both online and offline.