Don't get me wrong -- it's not easy, and it will involve donating some of your time and energy to help others. You'll be contributing your knowledge and experience, which in the long run will make you "shine" and come out looking like an expert in your field.
There are three main tools you'll need to incorporate into your daily life in order to become an "online networking warrior." Here they are:
E-Mail: E-mail is an important part of your life as an online entrepreneur. You should be answering all of your email within 24 to 48 hours to show you're actually reading it and taking care of business. Nothing will turn people off faster then your not responding to their emails in a timely fashion. Stay on top of it. No matter what the requests are take the time to answer each and everyone even if it's just to say "thank you."
Next, you should be subscribed to as many ezines/blogs as possible that
cater to your field of expertise. By doing so you'll be keeping "your ear to the ground," and will always be aware of any new trends or competitors in your field. I subscribe to hundreds. Do they take time to read? Yes. Is it time well spent? Absolutely. Many times I hear about new products/services before anyone else in my field, which gives me a competitive edge.
Another way of utilizing email is to reach out and touch someone. No, I'm not talking about sending Spam here. Maybe you've just read a great article online, why not drop the author a note telling him or her how much you enjoyed it. It's always nice to receive a friendly email with a sincere compliment. Who knows, that one email could turn that person into an alliance down the road who may be willing to do you a favor. He may even visit your website through your email signature and eventually become a client. Never miss an opportunity to "make friends" online and increase your networking circle.
Another tactic I often use comes into play when I see an article or a mention of a website where I know the site owner. I'll send him the link so he can take a look with a short note stating "Hey, did you know you're mentioned here?" You'd be surprised at the number of people who didn't know their article was being run or that their website was being discussed and they really will appreciate the "heads up" from you. Again, never miss an opportunity to do something nice and get your name out there.
Message Boards/ Blogs: If you've been working the Web for any length of time you know what a message board (aka forum) is, and where the best ones can be found. Commenting on blog posts is another great tactic you should be incorporting. Again, make it a habit to post to a few every day with a good sig line. You'd be amazed at the number of powerful people you can meet through a boards and blogs. Make sure you share information, resources, and answer others' questions when you can.
Before long you'll be known as a helpful reliable resource who knows what they're talking about. If you do a search you'll find thousands of boards on which to post.
You'll find a nice list here
As you can see networking online means getting involved and getting your name out there every chance you get. Don't be afraid to participate. By utilizing these three networking tools it won't be long before others turn to you for advice and guidance, and who knows, you too may wind up becoming one of the "Internet Elite."