You’ve probably heard how important it is to network with new people in your professional field so you can find new opportunities, boost your career, and make more money. And while all three of those things are great, it can be limiting to think of networking as just completing business transactions with people you know. It can also be pretty intimidating to make new contacts when your whole career and financial success is on the line.
Instead, think of networking in all of its forms as building international friendships, surrounding yourself with amazing, talented people who have the same interests you do and the skills you’d like to improve. All of your networking contacts really are just friends who can help you be more successful in business, finances, and life.
1. Find online spaces dedicated to things you’re interested in
Gone are the days of meeting random people who might be good professional network connections — with online networking, you can conveniently seek out the exact kinds of network connections you want by going to the digital spaces they hang out in. The easiest and most efficient way to find the best networking contacts is to join social media groups, participate in online forums, and follow the pages of people who share the same interests that you do.
Plus, when you’re in a group solely dedicated to something you’re passionate about, it’s a lot less intimidating to get in on the conversation. That’s because you don’t have to be an extrovert to network in person or online; you need to find people who share the same interests as you and focus on making friends, not connections.
So, head to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit
, and all the other digital spaces that have significant (or small!) communities dedicated to the things you’re interested in, learning about, or improving on.
Whether it’s in the forums, your own posts, or in the comments of someone else’s posts, be friendly, accommodating, and informative to cast yourself in the best light. This is the best way to make yourself positive, welcoming energy in the community. People gravitate toward positivity, meaning that you’re more likely to get noticed and be appreciated.
Now, commenting on someone else’s post may not always lead to the poster liking, responding to, or even seeing your comment, but it can open you to conversations and connections with others in the space. Think of the comment threads on posts as mini-forums for people interested in the same thing, which might be the poster themselves, their work, or the passions they post about. You can insert yourself in the conversation and get seen by replying to someone else’s comment, either with a question, a recommendation, a helpful tip, or even just an affirmation that what they’ve written was interesting, useful, or otherwise a great addition to the conversation.
In addition to just being friendly and helpful, you should also try to be active in that community as well. It’s a lot easier for a poster or their audience members to see you when you’re a regular contributor. There are, of course, respectful limits and boundaries you should adhere to, but making an effort to be a frequent commenter and helper to others is a sure-fire way to secure new connections and even get the attention of the person who’s posting the awesome stuff on which you’re commenting.
And if you’re posting content for others who have the same interests as you, make sure to acknowledge and thank commenters for their insights, questions, and feedback. Making people feel seen and heard is another way to radiate positivity and bring more new connections your way.
3. Post about what you’re interested in
If you’re active on social media and interest-specific forums, make sure that you’re posting content about that passion, skill, or general interest. This is how you can attract those intentional friendships to you and progress toward improving an aspect of or your whole life.
Say you’re interested in investing and have a little bit of experience doing so. Consider starting a blog, writing on your Facebook, or posting investment articles you find helpful on LinkedIn. This can lead to other investors commenting on your posts to share their insights, resources, and experiences. Soon enough, you’ll have a massive collection of resources and tips to build your wealth and improve your financial status.
Tailor your content to the topics that relate to the interests with which you want to build intentional friendships. Make your own little space on the internet to tell people what you’re about, what you’re learning, and who you’re hoping to learn from. That way, you’re focused on attracting people with the passions, skills, and experiences you want.
4. Be relatable and welcoming
When you make your posts or reply to others’ comments, remain approachable and down-to-earth. Don’t try to make yourself sound more intelligent or more experienced if you’re just getting into the community. This could prevent you from connecting with people who are on the same level as you.
Now, if you’re a pro in the industry or have been invested in your passion for a while, you may know more than the average person in the community. But it could open up your networking opportunities if you speak or write in an approachable manner. That’s because more people will be willing to comment or reach out to you since they won’t feel as intimidated (or intimidated at all). You can also attract those who have been around longer than you and who may be on a higher level than you are by being humble, welcoming, and down-to-earth.
5. Tell people how they’ve impacted you
You’ve attracted people to you and your content, or you’ve found possible new connections you’d like to start a relationship with. So, write your first message to them and get the conversation and intentional friendship started. But what do you write?
Rather than focus on what you like, what you’ve done, and what you want to do, focus your initial messages on how something they did positively impacted you. Save your life story for when they ask for it, and show respect by talking about them and learning more about them instead of pitching yourself. People like to talk about themselves, but more importantly, you should want to know more about the connections you’re making to keep those intentional friendships strong.
Networking online (and in-person) isn’t just about finding that next job or investment opportunity; it’s about having honest conversations with real people to build real relationships based on respect and shared interests. And having this mindset can make the whole process less intimidating for introverts and extroverts alike.