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Over the past twelve months I’ve met many people who want to network online, but don’t know how to get started. Here is my eight step quick guide to getting started with online networking:

1. Write a short profile about you, making sure you include relevant keywords within the description.

This is my short profile, which I use as the basis for all the online profiles and biographies about me:

Heather Townsend is a widely published writer, social media expert and performance improvement specialist for professional services.

Heather in the last decade has worked with over one hundred partners, coaching and trained over 1000 lawyers, accountants and other professionals at every level, in the UK’s top and most ambitious professional practices. She is the UK’s foremost expert on how business people can build meaningful and profitable relationships via social media. She has been commissioned to write on key business topics by the Financial Times.

Heather is the co-founder of The Efficiency Coach and The Executive Village.

2. Find a good quality, but low resolution professional head and shoulders photo.

3. Join LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a maximum of two other online forums. I personally frequent, LinkedIn Answers, The Everywoman forum, my Linkedin group, The Executive Village and sometimes UK Business Forums. If you want to come and say ‘hello’, you can connect with me on twitter with @heathertowns or @joinedupnetwork

4. Fill out your profile for the online networking sites which you have joined and follow the site’s suggestions to connect with people you may already know on the site. For example, LinkedIn will go through your Microsoft Outlook and online address book to find people you already know on LinkedIn, and send a request to connect.

5. Start your own blog and write about a subject which showcases your credibility. Update your blog at least once a week. Use:

  • The WordPress or Typepad application on LinkedIn to connect your blog to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Twitterfeed to connect your blog to your social networking status updates, e.g. Twitter and Facebook

6. Introduce yourself to other people within your online networking sites.

7. Do a google search for blogs which write about subjects interesting to you, or subjects which match your specialism. Add the RSS feed from the blog into your RSS feed reader, for example Google Feed Reader.

8. Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes each day to go into your online networking sites and read the blogs in your Google Feed Reader. Aim to complete the following each day:

  • A status update relevant to the audience on the site, for example keep your status updates on Linkedin very professional, but light, personal and social on Facebook
  • A way of helping someone out on the site, for example, answering a question or connecting two people together
  • Find up to five people to start a conversation with, whether this is commenting on a blog or chatting to someone on twitter, answering a ‘LinkedIn question’ or joining in a discussion on an online forum

In your opinion, have I missed out any of the basics?

Photo is reproduced under the creative commons licence