Thursday, March 29, 2012

Successful Networking - With Just Your Profile

Social networking for the professional side of your life is an art. While face-to-face networking is unlikely to loose its charm - social networking on line is becoming both part of the networking package and is also often a stand alone activity to build professional relationships.

Image by: Healingdream
At Text-to-Me we have already talked about choosing a social working site. We have also already had a look at how to choose a profile pic.  And we have even talked about the HOW of social networking.  So what about your written profile?  What messages is yours giving out?  How successful has it been for you?

How do you stand out from the crowd and yet remain true to your professional persona?

Most sites guide your way by asking you questions to answer.  Then when you preview your profile you get an idea of what it looks like to others.  This is the point at which you want to go back and make some revisions.  Here is a check list:

  • Does this profile give off the image I want? 
  • Does it attract the people I want to contact (employers, peers, customers)?
  • Is there a hook to make people want to read more?
  • Have I provided a link so they can get to know me better (a link to a blog for example)?
  • Is it positive?
  • Can you tell anything about my personality - or is it all just boring facts?
  • Does it make me look unique in some small way?
  • Have I used short, sharp sentences?
  • Are all the typos taken out?
  • Have I used an adjective or two that really represents me?
  • Have I been specific rather than make generalisations that anyone could claim?
  • Does it leave people wanting more or have I said too much?
Go through your written profile and see if there are any areas you can improve - and better still get a trusted peer, mentor or partner to check it and give them permission to be ruthless in their feedback.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shy online

Being socially shy can be a barrier to success in many jobs. We are expected to be social beings, to be able to walk into a room of people where you don't know anyone and not quiver with fear.  Yet for many of us, professional socialising is a learned skill. One we have to work on.  It is critical to most jobs and so we are forced into situations and we learn by watching others who are good at it, by reading books or watching training videos.

Image by: Michal Marcol
Socialising on line can be just as difficult for some people.  If you are using your company's social media, then you know that what you write is seen by everyone at work. (When you make a gaff at a face to face event there is often no one to see your sins!).  It can be scary to put yourself out there on the blank page - knowing it will be there forever.

Some of our old fears about joining in, in a face to face setting, will raise their heads too.  Will the 'A' crowd talk to me? What if I put a comment out there and no one replies?  Everyone will know that no one 'likes' me because the interaction is so public, and so permanent.  Fear of being socially ostracized is real - on line or face to face. And so we do nothing.

I run a large online University class.  Students are expected to 'get to know' each other. They eventually have to work in on line groups together. Even with the reward of participation points, some people find it too scary to get on line. Others jump in with both feet (or all typing digits!) and appear to be naturals ... so how do you do it?How do you get over your shyness and jump on to a wiki or discussion board? How do you get brave enough to set up a network of online professionals?

A good first step is to liken social on line networking to face to face networking. Here's some tips.

  • Start by keeping the attention OFF yourself.  Comment on someone else's posting first.  Take part in a discussion that is already started up and flowing well. Be a positive influence.  It can build your confidence.
  • Answer questions.  If someone is posting a question online - answer it if you have some resources or the answers. Become part of the social network by giving first. It helps to create your profile as a serious networker if you are willing to give to the network before you take from it.
  • Chat publicly with people you already know - or know you have something in common with. Like you would gravitate to people you already know at a party - start there on line as well.  But don't forget to expand your networking by including others who might be as equally shy on line as you are.
  • Sit back (just for awhile) and watch how others do it. Isn't that how we learn many of our social skills?  What tone are they using in their language with one another?Are they casual? Personal? Work focused? Read the situation and the signs. Read the culture of the group you are networking with. This way you are less likely to make any online social gaffs.  While we are on this topic - make sure you read any rules related to the online group you are part of - and follow them. 
  • Take your time when you first take part. Check your spelling (typos especially), and re-read your content to make sure it is easily understood.  Know that what you are posting makes a good impression before clicking SEND. 
  • Ask a question.  Like you would at a social networking event. Mention you are 'new' and would like to know xyz .... What is the worst that could happen?
Really it is about checking out the online scenery at first - and then just jumping in. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting to know you - match my words

Image by Janoon028
More and more we are meeting people online. An email from a supplier, a question on a business wiki from a potential customer or job application email from a potential new employee. While we eventually want to create effective long lasting relationships - the first step is the initial 'getting to know you': That next step after the first impression.

So how do we start to build effective relationships if our interactions are limited to being computer-mediated?

We can start with plain old good etiquette - or netiquette as it is known in the cyber world. The basics of respect for others demonstrated in how you interact with one another is always a good start.  Returning emails within a decent time (even if only to say you received it and will get back to them at a later date) is always a good start.

We can also look at language matching. When we converse with others we take hints about the type, speed and formality of the language we use to chat.  We can do the same online. How formal, how often, which communication tool to use (if they always text you and you always email them back you have a mismatch in preferred mechanism).  If you want to have a look at how language matching can be analysed you might want to visit this research site for a go.

When we match language we display empathy.  In a face-to-face conversation a friend might tell us they are feeling a bit flat ... we will match that when we reply empathetically "So you're feeling down today ....?"  (Followed by listening of course).  The same can be done online. At the beginning of an email when a customer says they haven't got back to you because they "have had new staff starting"  - take this as an opportunity to ask about their recent expansion or turn over.  Or perhaps share that you understand how time consuming training new staff can be. See the sharing and the language they use to open the relationship. In the same way you would at a work meeting.  Know the boundaries, but take the hint. As time goes by you will create different online working relationships with individuals. Some chatty and informal - some straight to the point and business like even after three years.

So what might you match:
*Tone (See Text Tone)
*Formailty or casualness of language
*Use of acronyms and emoticons
*Amount of non task conversation included
* Frequency (See What Frequency Do You Function On?)
*Language complexity - especially if you are corresopnding with people from outside your field of expertise or for whom English is not their first language.
* Length of correspondence (See the Art of Brevity)

So next time you meet someone on line take time to  read the language of their message along with the frequency and speed of reply.  Take clues from them about the relationship they want, and perhaps build one of those really effective business relationships - albeit totally on line.
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