Best practices for digital networking

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Online communication and digital networking is a rather recent phenomenon. On one hand, it is a bit like a good old face to face talk, except without face expressions, gestures or tone of voice. On the other hand, though, you do not really need to bother with grammar or stylistics and furthermore, you can use all those emoticons. While online socialising is still about relatively quick and witty responses, you have time to re-read your texts before sending them. Usually, you introduce yourself through a profile or an account the way you want to be perceived by others. However, using digital networks efficiently is not as simple as it sounds. So let’s get down to it.

The digital networking platforms are (just) tools...

The platforms are here to help you find and contact people, not to do it all for you. They usually serve a particular purpose, such as networking or travelling. The whole concept is to give out enough information about yourself in a striking and maybe even a bit creative profile to attract like-minded users. Remember what a given platform is for, manage your profile and formulate your messages accordingly.

Each digital networking platform has a unique system of connecting people. It is quite useful to inform yourself about it beforehand in order to increase the success and satisfaction. Sometimes it can be filling forms in, rather than just sending simple messages (CouchSurfing requests). Sometimes it can be going through a special process to find new companions (swiping and matching on Tinder).

It is advisable to be aware of the target group of a given platform first, to prevent surprises – Grinder, for example, is not about kitchen utilities. Generally, all these digital platforms have an introduction and rules available even before creating a profile and the most famous ones are as well covered on Wikipedia or frequently discussed in various public forums. So do your homework before you throw yourself into something headlessly.

Remember that all the users are just people like you, or maybe a bit more timid, or slightly less organised. Respect them and be polite. If you don’t like what you see, search a bit more. It is foolish to expect miracles when all you can get authentic experiences and life lessons – and those still are kind of miraculous.

You will mostly meet nice and enthusiastic people. But you know, little Red Riding Hood can cross the forest thousand times, but the wolf only needs to get her once… There can be mean people trying to get your personal data or address. Be very careful with giving those out and do not let anyone guilt you into doing something you are not comfortable with.

What is the fuss about online profiles and introductions

Maybe you still wonder about the benefits of participation in such structures. It has actually many advantages perfectly fitting the active lifestyle that travelling requires. It is a very simple way to gain experience and memories. So stop being shy and try it out, you can always quit it. The reasons are plenty.

Let me start with the number of people you can approach on a street or in a bar without being awkward. Not many, I guess… Because maybe the right ones are not even there. Contacting them via social media is not a random act, but a decision based on the available facts you know and like about them. There is also significantly higher probability of receiving a response as it is easier to get back to a message than to a conversation held on a street.

You can as well go through hundreds of profiles to find somebody with the same priorities and believes as you have - alias the right partner in crime for your plans. Some digital networking platforms allow customization of profiles with various tags, links or hypertext categories for easier orientation.  Having a well-written introduction with few interesting details can serve as a nice icebreaker and a solid base for a deeper conversation while skipping the small talk.

Take your time to prepare for real-life meetups - even in places you are yet to visit. This gives you the opportunity to get ready for it – not desperately needed for grabbing a coffee, but rather getting sports equipment and so on. This communication allows you to be in touch with more people at the same time, you do not have to find your copy with identical hobbies, but rather different people for different things. You will be more independent and there is chance of learning something new from them too.

New Friends From The Wisdom 2.0 Conference In San Francisco

General dos and don’ts when using online communities

  1. Be selective, but not picky. Look for people who fit your expectations, but keep it real. If you are looking for somebody to play football with, do not dump Ronaldo just because he does not read the same books as you do.
  2. Behave like you would in person, because you will probably meet in person later anyway. Being dishonest, disrespectful or impolite does not help to make more friends. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others!
  3. As the saying goes, every pot finds its own lid. Introduce yourself honestly and make your intentions clear. Being shady will not help you to meet the right people. Remember, you do not want trick people into meeting you. You want to build an honest and reliable partnership.
  4. Ask questions, maintain the conversation interesting and balanced, share your opinions. You are both equal human beings partaking in informal interaction. It should be fun, not an interrogation.
  5. Read the messages and react to them within reasonable time. Even impolite or inappropriate messages should be reacted to. Either by a polite, but firmly negative response or by reporting them, if they cross certain lines. Do not feel pressure to meet everybody who contacts you, but at least be a decent fella and say: “Sorry, but no.”
  6. Do not get stuck in small talk for too long. It is boring and does not encourage further progress. That is what you have profiles for, to boost engaging discussion.
  7. Do not pretend to be someone else or to do something you don’t really do. There is no shame in being interested in learning something new because you cannot do it yet or being exactly the version of yourself you are at the moment. It is all based on mutual honesty and trust.
  8. Don’t be too demanding or pushy. Do not let people be like that to you either; in such case respond resolutely and drop the conversation. Fun and chill is the essence of this activity. If somebody does not want to join you, get over it and keep searching.

Now go and use some great online communities to get engaged in digital networking with amazing people!

Adrian Sameli founder and editor of
Travel mindfully to meet local people around the world and embrace new cultures. Get inspired and inspire others!