Networking online is a great way to extend your reach and meet people outside your local geographic area. But keep in mind that online networking should be used in conjunction with, not instead of face to face in-person networking. These are both important and useful tools.
I am a big fan of LinkedIn and use it to help me keep track of, and in touch with business contacts. It is also a good place to meet new people. One way to do that is to participate by answering questions in the “Answers” area or at some of the group discussion boards, by doing this people get to know you. If they like your answers they may choose to communicate further with you or click through to your profile or website. In this way you slowly build a reputation and grow your network.
Now there are a handful of people at LinkedIn who are prolific when it comes to responding to great numbers of questions. The LI system features these individuals by listing them by order of most questions answered as “This Week’s Top Experts.” Now I am here to tell you that answering the greatest number of sometimes lame questions with the greatest number of sometimes equally lame answers in no way qualifies anyone on the list as an expert in anything except the ability to answer the most questions in a given week. However, this dubious distinction caught my fancy and I set out to distinguish myself among this illustrious and somewhat notorious group.
It is my observation that for most of the time that I have been paying attention, which is about a year, on and off, the number one position is most times filled by Dave Maskin a/k/a TheWire Man who usually attains this distinctions with something in the area of 300 plus questions answered in any given week. Second through fifth place is typically filled by Firas Abo Assaf, Judy B Margolis, Sahar Andrade, Wallace Jackson or Bryan C. Webb with numbers in excess of 200 questions answered.
I felt compelled to challenge myself to see how some of these people respond to so many questions and investigate how much time it takes. Well after about ten days I was able to get into the coveted position of top five and actually made it to the fourth position for about a day with about 225 questions answered in a seven day period.
If you give a number of trite replies to those that do not deserve much more, and try to give a half way decent reply to questions you might actually know something about, it takes a commitment of about 2 hours a day to attain this brief but honorable distinction.
Now what’s the benefit you might say? I found it helps you to see what people are thinking about and gives you the opportunity to ponder a variety of subjects. People do ultimately click through to see who you are and you might actually help a few people. My profile clicks were up a tad as were my web clickthroughs from LinkedIn. I received a number of nice email replies from various individuals thanking me for my participation in answering their questions and had a few pleasant follow-up questions or email swaps which led to including a few new people into my network because we seemed to have a potential future business synergy.
The problem with most online social networking is that it is time consuming with minimal immediate return compared to face-to-face networking in my experience. I enjoy the activity of sharing ideas so I will continue to participate in this activity though I believe I will try to do so in a less competitive manner. Answering questions on LinkedIn and other social media sites is a worthwhile activity but be careful that you do not use it a substitute for personal interaction and when you are out in the world be sure to seal the deal with a business card.