Online networking is defined as the practice of expanding one’s professional and personal contacts through the use of social platforms, and is a great way to meet new people and establish potential business partnerships. The old-fashioned way of networking in Singapore has always been to meet someone new through an acquaintance in person, and to make that all-important first impression face-to-face. In fact, there are many professional networking meet-ups that are hosted weekly that provide budding entrepreneurs with the opportunity to mingle and socialisewith people from different industries.
However, as more and more Singaporeans turn to social media to make purposeful relationships with likeminded individuals for personal reasons, professional networking has also begun to migrate online. The most popular professional social networking platform in Singapore is LinkedIn and there are currently 40%, or 2.3 million, of the population connected online so far.
In this article, we will explore all facets of online networking within the context of Singapore. Let us explore the benefits of online networking. What are some of the alternatives to LinkedIn? How can you successfully navigate the world of online networking to reap success? What else can you do to increase your presence online to further increase your chances of being fruitful in achieving more contacts? Read on and find out.
Benefits of networking
Be it online or offline, networking is crucial to career growth. Not only is a relationship formed in the process that may ultimately lead to new leads and business opportunities, it is also a fantastic way to build a stellar reputation, be it on a professional or personal level.
- Improve social skills
Do you find yourself to be the type who typically shies away from the crowd at social events? Perhaps you find it difficult to approach strangers simply to chat, and would really rather stay home. Well, as they say, practice makes perfect, and that is true for socialisingtoo. By exposing yourself to having conversations with strangers from all walks of life, you are fine tuning your social skills which will in turn increase your confidence.
- Increase confidence
As a professional, the impression that you give to others is crucial to your success. By putting forward the best version of you, one that is positive and strong, and by subtly highlighting your strengths, that all-important first impression will be a positive one. How you project yourself in a positive manner is dependent on your level of confidence and the way you carry yourself. Confidence is something that can be increased by practice, and the more you network and socialize, the more confidence and self-assured you will become.
- Gain insight and knowledge
Be it in the real world or online, being able to engage in conversations with professionals from various industries is important in building relationships. After all, you will not be able to make your presence known if you stay silent. Networking not only allows you to listen in on and attain valuable information from industry experts, you will also be able to get yourself involved in the conversation and share in the exchange of ideas within the group.
There are various forums and groups available online in which you can network. Share your ideas and opinions with other professionals and make your presence known; leave a lasting and positive impression if you can. It is through these platforms that you will be able to keep up-to-date on industry trends and you may even land yourself a business opportunity or a new job.
- Build connections
Whether you are running a business or are part of a company as a trusted employee, the connections that you make will make or break your career. Building connections with influential and reliable people will mean that you have many sources of assistance available to you should you require help at any time in the future. Even if the connections you have made are unable to provide the relevant help, they can direct you to people that they, in turn, know who may provide assistance. Of course, all relationships are about give and take, so if you do receive help from your connections, be prepared to offer reciprocal assistance should you be asked of it.
Online networking in Singapore
On a personal level, there are many online networking platforms through which you can network with others to make new friends – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram are all popular at the moment in Singapore. However, on a professional level, there is only one social networking site that we all know of so far and that is LinkedIn. In fact, Singapore is the third most connected country in the world on LinkedIn with 2.3 million users.
If you are not a fan of LinkedIn, what other options do you have for professional online networking? Here are some other options that we have sourced for you.
There are professionals from over 190 countries connected on Opportunity and it is an online networking platform that matches your profile to employment, business and sales opportunities. In addition to professional matches, Opportunity also provides users with the chance to network with others on a personal level based on their personality and interests. This is a great network site to use if you already have a LinkedIn account as you can sign in with that profile here.
Founded in 2002, Meetup brings online groups to real life both personally and professionally. To date, there are 225,000 Meetup groups spanning 180 countries worldwide. It starts with groups that users form on the platform where likeminded individuals can choose to join, ranging from badminton and biking groups, stay-at-home mothers groups, to app development and data science groups.
This professional networking platform started out as an app on Facebook that served as a system on which job seekers and recruiters can search for and post jobs. All connections are linked via Facebook, so you will be required to first have an active account on Facebook in order to utilize BranchOut.
There are thousands of public groups that you can join on Facebook Groups from where you can network with industry experts and gain valuable insight into the various niche markets. Some of the more popular Facebook Groups that you can consider joining for business advice include Harvard Business Review, The Startup Chat and Digital Marketing Questions.
In Singapore, there are many online forums dedicated to specific groups where people with similar interests can network with one another. Some of the more popular forums include Expat Living, Kiasu Parents, Singapore Motherhood, Hardware Zone, My Car Forum and Reddit SG.
While it is widely known as an image sharing social platform, Instagram offers networking opportunities as well in the form of direct messaging and commenting on others’ posts.
Building a network on Twitter is easy if you follow a few hard and fast rules: search for the right people to follow; craft the perfect bio for yourself; retweet as much as you can; come up with creative and original content to tweet. Remember to also be polite and respectful to your fellow Twitter users at all times and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Tips for online networking success
For any networking beginner, taking the first step to getting to know a stranger, starting and continuing a conversation and later keeping the lines of communication open for future interactions is intimidating. It is an entire process that requires a lot of commitment and time, but one that will pay off in the long run.
These tips are applicable for online networking on both personal and professional levels, and across different platforms. The rules that everyone is familiar with when networking face-to-face applies with online networking as well. It is, first and foremost, important to remember to be polite at all times and maintain etiquette when communicating with anyone online.
Keep an open mind
Get to know people from different backgrounds and industries to build a more varied and well-rounded network. While it is true that birds of a feather flock together, it is also important to remember that when you do that, your social circle will be limited.
Of course, it also isn’t a good idea to join just any group that you are invited to, but rather to decide on a few others that are not within your expertise but which are still relevant to your profession and/or interests.
Polish your profile
It is advised that you have separate social profiles for personal and professional uses. As networking on online platforms can lead to job and business opportunities, you will most definitely not want your potential employer to view photos of you partying it up at the club on weekends or slumped over the toilet drunk. Customize your business profiles to include only information that will highlight your work ethics and professional background.
Include contact details
All your networking efforts will be for naught if your connections are unable to contact you. You should include your phone number, email and maybe even your Skype or WeChat contact details on your profile so that you can be easily reached.
Refrain from being overly aggressive
In the same way that nobody likes being around individuals who push their way into conversations in parties and get-togethers, in the digital world, it would be best to refrain from being too pushy as well. It is important that you learn to ‘read’ an individual or a group and be sensitive to what you should and should not say or do.
For instance, if you find that it has been a while since you last heard from someone, send a message or email to them to politely ask how they have been doing and keep it at that. Remember not to spam them with emails and/or messages, or try too hard to join someone’s network. It will put you in a bad light and you may even be censured among the online community.
The general rule of thumb is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Take it slow
Before you start sending that message or email to initiate communication on a more personal one-to-one level, take some time (a week or two, perhaps) to make your presence known to your potential connection. You can start by liking or commenting on their posts, supporting their projects, or start discussions with them online in forums or groups.
Be brief and to the point
Once you have started a conversation with your connection, make your messages brief and to the point to avoid confusion and to eliminate the need to explain yourself. Time is money and if you spend too much time clearing up misunderstandings that may arise in the conversation, the other party may choose not to continue networking with you. It will be best to keep everything short and sweet, easy to understand and succinct.