Online continuity networking – do it now!

Don’t dismiss online business continuity ‘networking’ as difficult or a waste of time.

Using online groups and forums means you can ask the most obscure or simplest of questions and increase your network of useful people.  Think of it as a free resource.

We’ve talked before about making “friends” in business continuity and given you some ideas, even if you’re not a member of the BCI.  It’s always great to have face-to-face friends and acquaintances who can help with your business continuity related issues, whether that’s for ideas, expertise, leads on the next job or just someone to sympathise!

But for many of us, particularly if we aren’t city based, meeting contacts in person is simply not going to happen.  And even for those who do meet with others, online groups can often provide quicker results from a wider pool.  This is where making a small effort with some online facilities might pay dividends in the long-run.

Let’s imagine you’re looking for an online tool to achieve any/all of the following:

  • Ask questions of people in a similar position to you
  • Ask questions of people with particular expertise
  • Gain exposure to what others ask and answer
  • Gain a profile for being able to contribute answers and ideas
  • Get leads on jobs arising for people with your experience
  • Learn about issues, news, and resources that may be useful
  • Create an impersonal online network of contacts
  • Create a personal online network of contacts
  • Encourage useful people to contact you directly when appropriate

And now let’s imagine that you want these things for free.  Where would you go?

Though you can comment and discuss any article on this site – as you’ll see if you scroll down – there actually aren’t many other business continuity that allow you do do this.  In our ruthless task to bring you links to resources-that-do, however, we found one other.  It’s called the BCM Institute and that link will take you to their site – however, you should not that this is not the BCI’s website and we don’t know anything about this group other than they have an active forum!  (If you know of any other useful online forums – please comment at the end of this article to share them with others!)

However, you can get all the above bullet points from one of the high-profile social networking site.  Linked In is designed for business use and can help you achieve all these things.  But it’s only a tool.  In order to reap the benefits, you have to put in a bit of effort!

So here’s our tips for exploiting the free areas of Linked In* to make your business continuity life that little bit easier:

  • Don’t assume Linked In is for job seekers and freelancers.  Sure, it’s going to be particularly useful to those two groups (though only if everyone else is participating too!) but there’s a lot of free s
  • Read your company’s policy on social networking.  Linked In is a business tool, it’s not Facebook or Twitter.  But the information on it is still public, so read your company’s policy and have a quick thing about what you’re comfortable sharing with the planet before you start.  That way you’re making informed decisions before you start!
  • Look around.  Spend 10 minutes playing with Linked In and seeing what other people have used it for.  You might want to look up a friend, a competitor, a company… just see what’s going on and get a feel for it.
  • Join Linked In.  It sounds obvious but it takes a few minutes to do it; don’t put it off because you haven’t got time.  If you want to reap the benefits you have to establish yourself a little.
  • Put aside 15 minutes aside a week for Linked In.  Initially you’re going to work on your own profile and have a nose around and what might be useful.  Longer term – once we’ve automated some of the things you want to get from the site so it gets delivered to you without any effort – you’re just going to use it to keep yourself up-to-date on new things that are going on.
  • Ask people you already know if you can add them to your network If you’ve used sites like Facebook or Twitter the concept of a personal network will be familiar.    Linked In will ask for permission to use your address book to see if people in there are on Linked In; it will help you decide who to invite, if you’d like it to.  Otherwise, you can manually search for people you know.  Don’t worry about adding too many people in the first session; networks evolve.
  • Make your Linked in profile attractive. Do include a headshot that’s suitable for business use, and do write a snappy headline that gives you credibility and/or offers a little bit of your personality.  Your profile can be short when you sign up.  Over the weeks though, invest some of the time you’ve allotted each week to make your profile reflect as much of CV as you’re comfortable sharing with the planet.  Don’t include personal/home life information – that’s best kept to Facebook and Twitter. Linked In should reflect the professional image you’d like to project.
  • Join relevant “groups” Groups are going to be your key way of growing your online network.  Groups have names that indicate the subject(s) of interest to its members.  Join those that interest you and browse the conversations they’re having.  You don’t have to get involved yet, and remember that unlike some other sites, browsing conversations in Groups isn’t voyeurism!  The whole point of Linked In groups is to share knowledge, make contacts and learn useful things from what’s going on.  (We’ve included some group ideas below.)
  • Set the notification frequency for your group activity.  This is where it starts getting interesting.  If you want it to, Linked In will send you emails with summaries of the conversations going on in your groups.  You can set the frequency to ‘as it happens’, daily, weekly, monthly or never.  In this way you can see the conversation headlines by email – and only go read at those that you’re genuinely interested in.
  • Participate in groups.   You don’t have to be an expert in anything.  Seconding a question, thanking someone for posting a link to useful information, or asking a question of your own is as much ‘getting involved’ as answering questions – which is also a useful thing to do when you have something to say.   Even a goal to submit, every month, just one comment to one conversation in one of the groups you’ve joined, will help you start a ball rolling.
  • Add contacts with whom you interact online.   Initially you added people you actually know in real life to your network.  Now you need to add people you ‘meet’ online to expand that network.   If you’re in the same group as someone you’d like to add, Linked In you can pick this ‘how do you know X?’ option when you invite them.   In the open text box, simply say you appreciated their contribution to the conversation and would like to add them to your network.  Your genuine contact is then established and, in our experience, they’re very likely to accept your invitation.
  • Add contacts you don’t know.   Sometimes you may want to add someone to your network that you haven’t met in real life or online.  While this isn’t always recommended, there are circumstances in which we think this is actually a good idea – but we think the trick is to explain, in the open text section of the invite, why you want to add them.   If you both work in business continuity for a media organisation, for example, then you might be helpful to each other over time; if you enjoyed an article they wrote (or a job they posted) and you want to keep an eye out for other things they write, why not explain that?  Just assume your messages are public (even if they’re private) and it’s harder to go wrong.
  • Over time, get some recommendations on your profile.  This is something that you can worry about in a few weeks, when you’re starting to build your network, it helps others trust you.   We know it can be daunting to ask contacts for recommendations, most people won’t mind if you ask nicely and explain that you won’t mind if they don’t respond to the request. Offering a two-sentence recommendation they can use verbatim often helps too – it’s short and the work is done for them.  And that way you also see that each says something a little different about your abilities.
  • Invest 15 minutes a week.  You can use your Inbox permissions to make all emails from Linked Ingo to a separate folder.  Once a week, just go through the folder and see what’s going on.  If there are conversations you want to read or comment on, follow the links and do that.  Improve your profile. Add new contacts you’ve met in real life that week.  Add a new contact you’ve ‘met’ via a conversation or group.  Keep an eye on who’s viewed your profile.  Post your questions.  Respond to questions you can answer.

Some of the business continuity related Linked In groups you might like to consider are:

With Linked In, as with any social network or website, you’re placing on line for anyone to see.  So you do need to remember, at all times, that you’re aiming to present your professional, business-like self and not break any company policies or confidences.  But with that in mind, be bold and get involved.

US magazine, Forbes, says Linked in is the “the place to be found.  You never met a new person at a party without first saying hello, and making friends online is just the same.

If you’ve got any recommendations for more online business continuity groups or activities, please comment below to share them!


*For clarity, Linked In have not sponsored, seen or approved this article!

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