Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Online networking and the relationship factor

This is a great article. One of my favourite newsletters is the one that I receive from the desk of Michael J. Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru. Michael is a great friend from my days in Ottawa and we have continued our relationship. Michael is a great motivator and speaker and I recommend his monthly newsletters to all my clients and friends

Donald Robichaud
FloodLight Consulting -Build Your Business

From the desk of Michael J. Hughes, Canada’s Networking Guru.
I define networking as the process of creating and developing relationships from initial contact to ultimate outcome. My premise, and my exprience has been, is that the process is fundamentally unalterable. This means that networking online will never replace face-to-face contact, nor was it ever meant to. When the technology is used effectively, it can enhance the relationship process.

  1. Accept reality. Because online networking often doesn’t include the all-important human contact factor, it can make relationship-building more difficult and complicated. Don’t misinterpret that acceptance of a connection equals a relationship. This is simply one small step towards building the relationship. You will often have to work harder to create relationships online because of this very fact.

  2. Embrace the process. Relationships take time, require investment and need to be nurtured. Be prepared to invest in all three if you really want your online contacts to blossom. Keep thinking and working in terms of small steps that will build into future success for you and others.

  3. Take responsibility. Many people are unsure of protocol when it comes to moving a relationship forward. Make it easy for them by suggesting a next step. Reduce their anxiety by adapting to their schedule or time line. Increase their level of comfort by allowing them to set the terms of contact. Every time you do this,you build trust as they will gain more appreciation for your sincerity and professionalism.

  4. Emphasize context. An online connection occurs as a result of pre-determined context. This could be a common contact, similar interests, parallel career path or complementary needs. Use this seed as the basis for relationship growth. Relationship-building online is no different than at a networking event. In fact, it requires even more work in the early stages to overcome the inertia of non-human contact.

  5. Build trust. Just about everyone today is cautious, even more when dealing with others online. Take this into consideration in your relationship-building mindset and methodology. Over-compensate when it comes to simple trust issues such as honoring commitments, disclosing agenda or sharing information. Consistenly demonstrate that others can depend on you to deliver on small promises and specific actions. This will have a huge impact in a short time.

  6. Communicate effectively. This is one area that most online networkers miss. The best communicators focus less on communicating their own agenda and work harder to discover what others want and need. Taking this tact with online conversations will have others perceive you as more professional and more polished.

  7. Think options. Relationships always carry outcomes. This is a simple fact of life. Take this perspective will help you keep investing in the relationships you make online until they yield results. Be prepared to allow online relationships to grow at their own pace, that way others will know you care about them and will open their minds, hearts and networks for you.

Michael J. Hughes is a recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at


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