Having access to a whole world of connections offers great potential for professional networking. There are ways of using your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to boost your presence online and network with potential business connections.
Networking online is very similar to networking face-to-face; first impressions are very important. The difference online is that you are putting your persona out there before you have even started speaking to anyone.
Here are 6 ways to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward when you are networking online.
1. Protect yourself. Google yourself and delete inappropriate images from your profile(s). This is a quick and effective way to see what others see when they search for you online. Set up a Google Alert for yourself, which will notify you when someone has searched for you.

2. Be positive. People are less likely to connect with you if you post negative messages on your profile. Keep these messages clean and consistent.

3. Be professional. Separate your personal and professional life online. Create another account if necessary.
Use a professional image on your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles (if you use the latter for business).
Use a professional email address.

4. Keep it private. Check your privacy settings to make sure they are appropriate.

5. Post regular, relevant and authentic content on your profile. You can use your Twitter profile to your advantage here as it prompts you to post short, concise messages. Posting a link to a blog post or website and using images in your posts are more likely to attract engagement.

Use relevant keywords in your profile that potential connections will be searching for. Job listings and other people’s profiles are a good source of inspiration for generating these keywords.

Use relevant hashtags in your posts as this will improve the reach of your message to your potential audience. Don’t use too many hashtags however, as the impact and meaning of your message will be lost.

Retweet relevant content and reply to tweets to increase your presence on Twitter. This can be positive customer feedback or helpful articles. Anything you post should be in line with your overall purpose and values.

Twitter is an effective platform as you can use your Twitter activity dashboard to see who is engaging with the content you post on your profile.

6. Be persistent. Once your profile is ready to go and the connections come flooding in, the important thing is to nurture these connections. As recommended in my last blog, it is key to plan ahead. Plan what goals you would like to achieve and try to stick to them. This way you are more likely to stay on track. Joining online communities is a good way to stay in touch with events that are coming up and the latest discussions on issues in your area.
Don’t just rely on social networking sites to make professional connections; online networking should supplement and not completely replace face-to-face networking. Connecting on LinkedIn is a good start but meeting face-to-face is a worthwhile follow-up activity.