I’ve been visiting several social networking sites for women to observe and better understand how business women can effectively network online. While I see quite a few women actively contributing tips and resources on various subjects, I see even more women posting their business ads or posting flashing graphics on the walls or personal message boards of the community members. While there is nothing wrong with promotion, it is when you haven’t contributed to the community, but you expect something from the community.

I wonder how many women who are posting their ads, flash banners and “purchase from me now” messages are actually using the products or services of others in the community that are posting the same type of ads? More than likely they are not doing any purchasing and no one is purchasing from them either, which is a waste of time on both sides.

As a businesswoman, I had to learn a hard lesson in  marketing and that is just because I am a woman, it does not  mean that I know how to market to women.   From my research, I have learned that women purchase from those they trust and a relationship of familiarity must be established consistently.

Below are 6 ways to improve your online appeal.

Join only social networks and message boards that you can contribute to on a regular basis (1-3 times weekly). Don’t sign up for every social network, just because you receive an invitation.  Evaluate how you can contribute, the types of community members and what type of content they are contributing.

1. Establish yourself as an expert in your industry.  Educate the community with short articles, tips and resources about your product or services subject.

2. Make sure you have setup your signature, which will show up at the end of your forum messages and/or blog posts.

3. Only connect with individuals that you feel you could establish a win-win connection.  Perhaps you might have a need in the future for their product or services, maybe you like the types of resources and information they contribute.

4. Use special features such as blogs to contribute use information, tips and resources that will establish you as an expert.  For example: if you own a virtual assistance service, share 3 ways to create an effective email campaign, instead of placing an advertisement on your blog.  At the end of your contribution, place a coupon or trial offer with a link to your website or special sign up page.  It will go further than the ad will.

5. Stay in touch with those that you are friends with or connect to by sending out a helpful motivational message with an small product or service offer at the end.

6. Developing a professional reputation online is very important, because it can truly follow you.  When people search your name or business on the Internet, it will pull up everything.  If you have spammed a message board or community with flashing ads or advertisements and someone makes a negative comment, it will surely show up on Google searches.

While this information is important for online networking, it is also equally important for offline networking as well.  When you put effort in truly creating a relationship and value-based reputation online, you will have people private messaging you for more information on what you do!