Who can benefit from online business networking? The answer is obvious: anyone who has a computer and an internet connection and able to access the many social media platform out there.

The less obvious answer to the above question is going to be based on your preference when it comes to time management and interactions. Do you like spending a lot of time on a computer? There are some people who try their best to minimize the time they spend interacting on the internet, while there are some who are drawn to tablets, monitors, and phones. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this, it just depends on the degree of preference. If you are the type of person who likes browsing the internet, communicating with others through email, and working online, then there is a good chance online networking will be a great thing for you.

If you don’t like spending time online, don’t worry. Keep in mind that networking online is a means to an end. The little time you spend online can be used for connecting with new contacts online, then you can plan to meet them in person.
It is important for you to consider the amount of time – how many hours a week or per day you are willing to focus on online networking, and how you are going to use that time (e.g. visiting online forums and reviewing discussions, posting to your blog, keeping profiles updated, reading other people’s blogs, reading and responding to comments, tweeting, etc.)
Which online networking platforms do you prefer? You should choose a platform used by your target audience. Some of the most common options include LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

No matter the platforms you choose to use, you should always be very clear with both yourself and others about your motives and goals. You should try your best to be informative, positive, and value-oriented.

Know the difference between the interactions that are going to be beneficial for you and your online community and those that are going to waste your time and energy. If a person is asking a question that you know the answer to, it gives you the chance of helping them while showing them your knowledge. You should be careful because comments can easily veer into opinions when a remark ends up being viral and you end up regretting it immediately. Once you release something to the cyberspace, there is no taking it back, and the audience of the remark you made can grow very fast.

The goal of online networking is developing social capital, which is just like any kind of business network. There is a question you will need to deal with in the online world: is the investment of energy, time, and care on behalf of other networkers be reciprocated in such a way that is meaningful to you? You are the only one that can know whether something is meaningful or not, and you will be the one deciding if the investment is productive.

Publishing a newsletter online and blogging are some of the things you can do to complement your networking efforts online. You will need to invest time in these tasks because you need to have content that is updated regularly to make sure it remains current. Be careful and deliberate when you get started with your online networking.