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How to Network When You're Socially Awkward Never mind the old-school cocktail party. Be a digital player: Join online professional groups. Or better yet start your own.

By Te-Erika Patterson Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


When you're socially awkward and your social calendar shows it, setting goals like starting a business or leading a movement might seem impossible.

How can you possibly waltz into a crowded room and leave with a dozen business connections if you can barely look a stranger in the eye? And let's not forget that oh-so-mind-numbing round of small talk passed around in rooms of strangers as they try to gauge who can help them get where they want to go in life.

You can't figure out how to talk about anything so you stand there as quietly as possible, cramming your mouth with cheese and crackers, hoping you don't unintentionally blurt out an offensive statement.

Relax. There is nothing wrong with you. You don't have to change who you are.

Just because you can't thrill a crowd with witty banter doesn't mean you aren't fascinating. In fact, you may be brilliant. Don't talk yourself out of trying to start your business just because you heard somewhere that an effective business leader must be a social butterfly.

You don't have to play by the old rules: This is the digital age. There are a plethora of ways to connect with others who will value your ideas even if you don't engage in the traditional meet and greet. Break the rules and become a digital butterfly instead.

While extroverts believe that focusing on connecting with others through digital means is just a way for you to hide behind your computer, understand that your digital persona can be an important tool for sidestepping your social limitations.

When you create authority with your digital presence, it will speak for you even when you're tongue-tied. Check out these four ideas:

Related: How Introverts Can Power Through Networking Events

1. Join online groups for professionals.

Do you think that just because you're the only person you know who is interested in creating life-size dolls, say, that there aren't others out there equally as fascinated by this?

Virtually any topic that you're building your business around has a thriving online community of people who are wild about doing the same thing.

Find them by searching hashtags or doing a simple web search. When you introduce yourself, you will learn things that would have taken you years to discover on your own. And the best part is you will never have to go sit outside alone in the car for 15 minutes to recover from a socially triggered anxiety attack.

2. Create your own community.

It's not easy to socialize when you're following the social standards set by someone else. Why not go out on a limb and create your own community that welcomes people in areas related to your field?

Create a Meetup group, a Facebook group, a Google Plus community or even a Reddit thread so that like minds can find you.

You will be the leader so you can structure the activities and set standards for how people interact with one another. Become the creator instead of asking for permission to join and you will never be at a loss for words because you will be too busy building.

Related: Shy People Tend to Have This Coveted Leadership Skill

3. Host online webinars.

Organizing a webinar that invites leaders and shining personalities from your industry to share their knowledge is a great way to network without having to schmooze. You can streamline the delivery of word of the latest developments in your industry directly from the mouths of those developing them all without doing one breath check.

You can even invite one of the masterminds you admire to be the host of the event while you manage the back end of the project. Invite participants by using your best communication tool: email.

This communication tool was created to help everyone communicate more efficiently. Don't let anyone lead you to believe that communicating by email is a crutch when you know that this tool helps you represent yourself in the best way.

4. Create a digital-media platform.

The very best way to stay in the loop and relevant in your industry is to create a digital-media platform. A website, blog, video channel or podcast that consistently provides value to your industry is a significantly strategic and brilliant endeavor.

When you create a digital platform that showcases the best ideas and innovators in your industry, you will attract bright minds who will want to know and befriend you without having to meet for cocktails.

Busy entrepreneurs will make time for you because they appreciate being celebrated for their efforts. You will earn the right to stand among the best without ever wondering if you fit in. You will fit in when you learn how important it is to create a place for yourself.

Related: 5 Benefits of Being a Misfit Entrepreneur

Te-Erika Patterson

Journalist, Multimedia Content Producer and the Creator of The Rebuild Your Life Project

Los Angeles-based Te-Erika Patterson is a journalist, multimedia content producer and the creator of The Rebuild Your Life Project on MySavvySisters.Com, an empowerment blog for women. She also runs Moving To LA TODAY, a relocation assistance company.

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