For millennials raised on AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook, the idea of face-to-face professional networking can be scary.
The important role nonverbal communication plays in human interaction is well documented. This is one of several reasons why face-to-face networking tends to allow people to build stronger relationships. But that doesn’t mean online networking is useless. In addition to initiating relationships, online networking tools, such as topic-specific Twitter chats, can help professionals prepare for in-person networking events.
Here’s how they do that:
Improve your ability to focus
If you’re like me, you do about 18 things at a time when you’re on the computer. For example, just while writing this post, I’ve responded to emails, sent LinkedIn invitations, checked my feed on Brazen Careerist and had a conversation with my mom.
Though distractions are sure to be abundant while participating in a Twitter chat, Maria Elena Duron, chief engagement officer of the marketing firm Buzz 2 Bucks, said it is important to pay attention and avoid other activities during a chat, just like you would during an in-person networking event. “Steer clear of multi-tasking,” said Duron, who was an early participant in the well known #journchat and went on to establish #brandchat. “You’ll miss the great benefits of the chat if your attention is diluted.”
Help you learn to be patient
It can be challenging to contribute to a community that doesn’t respond immediately with what you want (i.e., a job or internship opportunity). However, being patient will pay off.
Also, like any networking event, you have to go into a Twitter chat with the idea that you’re there to talk about a topic or issue, not just to find a job. If you happen to find an opportunity along the way, that’s an added bonus.
For Duron, positioning and building a reputation as an industry expert has been one of the biggest gains of Twitter chats. Just like in-person networking events, Twitter chats present an opportunity to establish deeper connections, she said.
Hone your engagement skills
Doing a little observation before jumping in to a chat never hurts, but when you engage, make sure you’re contributing something substantive to the conversation.
New York City-based public relations professional Alexandria Hunt, who started participating in Twitter chats earlier this year, offered this advice: “Look at the chats as an opportunity to speak your opinions as well as network with professionals. After all, it’s all about the networking! Have fun with it!”
This is also a good way to think about face-to-face events. No matter how stressed you might feel about meeting others you don’t yet know, find a way to make it fun so it feels less like a chore.
Finally, just as with face-to-face networking, it’s just as important — perhaps more important — to engage after the chat. “The fortune is in the follow-up,” Duron said. “Follow people from the chat that you found interesting, and stay engaged in conversation via Twitter even away from the chat. That is really how you work your network
What other Twitter chat lessons translate to in-person networking situations?