handshake You're already using LinkedIn , Twitter and Facebook . You even have 1,000+ followers on Twitter, 500 contacts on LinkedIn and 2,500 friends on Facebook.

What? You're not closing new deals every day? 

Networking online requires similar skills as networking in the real world. It's pretty easy to collect a bunch of friends or followers on social networking sites, just like it's easy to go and hand out 100  business cards at a networking event. 

If you're using social media and you're not getting business results from it, maybe you're doing it wrong. Here are three common mistakes that any business networker should be able to relate to:

You Only Talk About Yourself. 

If you've been to a chamber of commerce networking event, you've seen these guys. They show up with a nice suit, some cologne, a stack of business cards and they start introducing themselves to anyone who'll listen. They don't ask questions, they don't bother to find out what others do, and most egregiously, they don't bother to find out whether you have a need for what they do. They simply start talking about what they do and why they're the best.  Then, they shove their card in your pocket and move on to the next victim. 

I'm pretty sure I don't have to make the connection here. Be sure to send this link to anyone who's throwing up all over their Twitter stream. 

You Don't Have Contact Information on Your Business Cards ( Which You Printed on Free VistaPrint Stock)

I've been there. I know how hard it is to bootstrap a company. It's really tempting to get those free business cards from VistaPrint and save $50.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I ordered my first box that way until a cohort of mine smacked me around a bit. 

The online equivalent of the VistaPrint business card is the free blogger blog or the GoDaddy $10/month website. These things wreak of "I just started my biz. I don't have any clients. I can't really afford to get a website."

Even more importantly, though, these websites don't have what it takes to turn the traffic you attract from social media into sales leads for you. Having a website without compelling offers, landing pages and calls to action is the offline equivalent of handing out business cards that don't say what you do and don't have any contact information on them. 

You Never Ask for Their Business Card or Ask if You Should Follow Up.

Newbies at networking events will swap business cards like handshakes. Some people measure their networking event success by how many business cards they swapped. But, a seasoned networker knows that it's not quantity, but quality. I learned most of what I know about real world networking from Rick Roberge , Mark Paskell and Jason Kallio.  These guys taught me to ask questions and find out whether people had any problems that I could solve, and then ask people if they'd want to talk about that over coffee or a phone call. If I couldn't directly help someone, they also taught me to connect them with someone who could.

Both of these practices will work online too. Ask good questions and pay attention to what other people are saying. Proactively follow up after you connect with people and try to be a resource for whatever issues they're struggling with, whether you can sell them something to fix those issues, or not. If you focus on helping people, people will want to find out how they can help you.

Photo: oooh.oooh

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Originally published Jun 23, 2009 3:37:00 PM, updated March 21 2013

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