Networking in the Digital Age: How I Roll

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Digital Networking.  What does that phrase mean?  I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject (Though I did stay at a20170307_TheProactveNetworkingProcess2 Holiday Inn Express a couple of nights…)  What I do know about digital networking is what I’ve learned and I’ve learned it the same way I’ve gained most of my knowledge and skills in this world:  reading, listening, trying, failing, and trying again.  Repeat.  Today I’d like to share with you a bit of what I’ve learned in the hopes that you will find some benefits without too much, “trying, failing, and trying again.  Repeat.”

Create Your Digital Persona

I’m not speaking of some fictitious character, but rather your “brand”:  who you are, what you do, what do you stand for, etc.  See, in the digital world you only get one chance to make a good first impression AND you only get to use that 7-10 percent of communication, the non-verbal part.

For this discussion, I’m going to focus on LinkedIn since it is currently the top-ranked social media platform used by professionals.   The key element of LinkedIn as with just about all the other social media platforms, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., is the Profile Page (think of this as your digital

I know using my own photo is "cheesy", but at least I don't have to get a signed release, right?

I know using my own photo is “cheesy”, but at least I don’t have to get a signed release, right?

business card) and it should include the following:

A nice-looking head-shot photograph.  LinkedIn’s research indicates that other people on LinkedIn have a more favorable impression, and are more likely to connect, with individuals who have such a photograph on their Profile page.

Your Name.  I know this one’s obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I see LinkedIn profiles with the person’s name reversed (Avsec Robert instead of Robert Avsec).

Just an example of what you can create.

Just an example of what you can create.

Your Headline.  The headline for any story or article is designed to “capture the reader’s attention.”  You want people to take a look at you, right?  LinkedIn gives you 160 characters to use any way you want in your headline; don’t waste those valuable characters with the usual, “alphabet soup” of certifications, designations, etc.  Take advantage of those “160 nuggets of gold” and give people a reason to want to read your profile (and connect with you).  Here are a couple that I’ve “gleaned” from some of my connections:

  • “Science communicator, blogger, writer, trained in languages, literature, drama, Senior News Manager at AlphaGalileo.”
  • “Leading a New Generation of Personal Development and Leadership Experts | NY Times & WSJ Best-Selling Author & Speaker.”
  • “Fire & EMS professional and Infopreneur who writes to inform and educate leaders for today and tomorrow.”
  • “The Editing & Proofreading Guy: Editing, proofreading, and editorial management for clear, effective communication.”

Your Contact Information.  , it does have LinkedInContactScreenShotIf you’re serious about networking, you have to be serious about giving people reasonable access; many times I’ve seen something that I would have shared with a LinkedIn connection only to find out they listed no external e-mail address.

Another approach, which I’ve taken recently, is to upload images and create hyperlinks to my blog, e-Books that I’m selling, and my website.

Another approach, which I’ve taken recently, is to upload images and create hyperlinks to my blog, e-Books that I’m selling, and my website.

Your Summary Section.  I’ve heard many social media gurus refer to this section of the LinkedIn profile as being akin to “above the fold” in newspaper lingo (Good editors put the interesting and eye-catching news above the fold on the newspaper).  Think of your Summary section as being that kind of valuable “real estate” and use it to build upon your headline section (there’s that newspaper “connection” again!). You can also seek attorneys help with estate planning before owning a property.

Your Experience Section.  Your Summary Section LinkedInJobHistorySectionshould pique my curiosity and lead me to this section on “deep background”, but do keep it short and sweet—3 or 4 short paragraphs at most.

Focus on one or two things that you were involved in that really mattered in your various former positions. And they don’t have to be just former jobs.

Build houses with Habitat for Humanity? Take regular mission trips with your church to developing countries to build housing or staff medical clinics or provide decent drinking water?  Put it in there! (You don’t just want people to accept your invitation to connect on LinkedIn—you want them to be interested enough to seek greater connection that winds up being mutually beneficial, right?).

LinkedIn has tons of cool features that are very useful for developing and maintaining your professional network and I’ve just scratched the surface with this piece.  But, as we say on the emergency scene, “What begins well tends to end well.”  I think you’ll find your ability to network on a digital level is be greatly enhanced by making these improvements to your Profile.

In a future piece, I’ll let you in on how to, among other things:

  • Leverage your present connections;
  • Make new connections;
  • Categorize your connections; and
  • Use Groups to develop your on-line professional presence.

Now, do I know you?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,