Finding your way into the online networking realm and using your visits there effectively can be helped by applying traditional referral networking thinking.

According to Dr. Ivan Misner, CEO of the world’s largest networking firm, BNI (Business Network International), the goal of networking online is the same as traditional networking: you’re trying to form a relationship with somebody you trust and who trusts you.

“With online networking,” says Misner, “There are several ways to develop your word-of-mouth marketing, but it’s important to understand that the foundation of making online networking work for you is the same as with any kind of networking — you’ve got to develop relationships with trusted business associates.”

Misner shares his five tips for networking success online:,/p>

1. Join one or more online networking communities — Actively participate.
No matter which community you choose, however, after joining, you need to

2. Start a blog or write a regular column for a website or e-newsletter.
You can start a blog (basically an online diary) on one of the larger
blogger sites or online communities; you’ll create more buzz for yourself.

3. Develop an e-mail newsletter for your own company. Create an e-mail
database of clients, customers and friends, and send them regular content
that drives them to your own website.

4. Never forget that online networking is still about developing trust. In
order to drive business to your company by word of mouth, you must focus
on developing real, personal relationships with people.

5. Understand that online networking has its own cultural norms. Many
cultural pretenses don’t exist online, however, and people tend to be much
more blunt when responding online than in a face-to-face meeting. With
online networking, people feel it’s easier to be more direct.