Virtual Networking Groups: Effectively Connecting & Engaging Online
Local breakfast meetings or cocktail hours at your local bar association are invaluable business development tools that facilitate face to face interaction among like minded professionals. There is no replacement for good ol’ fashion networking, but with social networks like Google+ and LinkedIn, you can continue to stay connected, and meet new professionals in your field even when your busy schedule doesn’t permit many events out of the office. To maximize the benefits of virtual networking, consider the following:
- Join Active Groups that Interest You
If your main objective is to network with other legal professionals, LinkedIn and Google+ are probably best suited to meet your needs. Both of these social networks encourage engagement of individuals who share interests by hosting various online forums (on LinkedIn, these are called Groups and on Google+,-they are called “Communities”). On both of these networks, members of groups/communities can start group conversations or comment on threads posted by other members; these online forums provide a great space to exchange ideas.If you are a personal injury attorney, you can be certain there is a group for that or, if you love technology, you might consider searching for groups which cater to attorneys who share your passion for innovation in the tech field. Joining groups that align with your interests are important because the more you care about the subject matter being discussed, the more likely you are to embrace ongoing engagement.
If you go to a networking event and sit in the corner on your Blackberry, the benefits of your attendance will be minimal, if any. The same goes for online networking groups; don’t just be a bystander. Take time to log in a few times each week and be a part of the various conversations. To help you break the ice, be sure to post a short introduction to the group as soon as you join it. You’ll likely find that other members welcome you, and take time to learn more about your practice- helping you to get your name out there immediately.
- Take the Conversation Offline
These online communities can be a great place to meet new connections, and regularly engage professionals but whenever possible take the time to take the conversation offline. You will likely find that there are a number of attorneys who you interact with on a frequent basis. Don’t be afraid to ask for a fellow member’s email address or phone number so you can interact more directly. We’ve heard of many lawyers who have become so friendly with other community members that they’ve even gone to meet them – what a great way to make new friends and referral sources!