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Virtually Engaging - Saira Nisa


Let’s face it, the present and future is electronic, socially, financially, academically and just generally. We make and “meet” our friends and contacts online, we purchase online, we submit our homework online, do online courses, we’re always online even when we’re out all thanks (or no thanks!) to those smart gadgets we carry around, we’ve never detached.

It’s the same for businesses. All those who wish to stay ahead of the game and remain engaged with their client base know the way to do so now, regardless of how many other groups of people wish to return to the traditional ways of socialising, banking or shopping. So for those of you who use the internet and most notably have registered on to networking sites, are you sure you have made the right move?

If you regularly engage with your audience and they respond back positively, you’ve made the right move. If you’re gaining business and popularity from networking sites, then again, you’ve made the right move. What about those of you who have registered and then done nothing? You read a few articles, click a few links but never utilise the online resources to harness an audience. Was there really any benefit in joining?

Maybe you only want access to the articles which is fine. What about those of you who have paid a membership fee in addition? Most importantly, has anyone made any friends and contacts?! I find it bizarre that there are business owners who register to a site, complete an online profile and then never network with others on there. I see articles and blogs posted and invites sent to others to join their group and ‘like’ their page but I don’t see many, if at all any, engaging in meaningful conversations. I’ve been on sites where other businesswomen will even send me friend requests – great!

I love it but there is no introductory message. Ladies, tell me about yourselves, if you want me as a potential client one day or a business contact, then you’ve got to tell me about yourself, you’ve got to (dare I say) talk to me or type since it’s online but either way, there needs to be a conversation otherwise there is no rapport and no start of a beautiful relationship. Perhaps it’s a misconception. Perhaps business owners genuinely believe that putting a profile up equals instant business and contacts and all the fame and fortune that comes with it.

Perhaps mass duplicate postings of our page links will draw the bees to the honey. One thing I do find (including at women’s face-to-face networking events) is that once women have come across another who is in the same line of business as themselves, they end their pleasantries with a civil grin, conversation becomes vague as they hold back their ideas, visions and thoughts (lest the other one should steal it) and they move on quickly, hoping that they bump into that one other woman who is in the line of business they which suits their needs; you know, a female accountant you can make friends with, a designer you can pitch your artistic skills to and that journalist who can raise your profile. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound cynical here or berate anyone, not all women have registered to networking sites and events to sell sell sell. However some I’ve registered with, women there do not like the notion of “strength in numbers”.

This doesn’t mean you all have to merge your companies; it just means you can both impart golden nuggets of experience and advice. You can at least become each other’s mentors. Why do you think there are associations of ‘professions’? All the professionals in that one industry get together and network, they converse, they share ideas and stories, they all know each other from previous meetings and their success continues outside of those walls.

Multi-level-marketing (MLM) companies work similarly, the success of one person relies on the success of those who sign up in their team and working together and putting the effort in as a team, each person in the team can climb the success ladder together. Once one person begins to fall behind, you can guarantee someone else will, even if it is just one or two of them. So next time you register to a networking site, start talking to people, actually start to network.

If you send a friend request to someone, follow it up with an email or add a personal message to the request. Add your photograph to your profile so people can relate to you better. Have your company logo there too so others know what you stand for. People need to be able to relate to you before they will buy into what you offer. Just to put this into a little more perspective, a story I heard at a business event last year; When Steve Jobs realised his company was suffering financially, he approached Bill Gates for funding ($3 million or $3bn dollars, I can never remember).

Bill Gates asked why Steve thought to approach him of all people and why he should hand over the money. Steve Jobs’ response; Because without Apple, your company, will never strive to become innovative and will never progress. You need us to keep you in the game. Bill Gates handed over the funds. Lesson: competitors should be your motivators and those mentors from whom you learn important lessons.