How to network online
Somebody takes an old marker pen and writes ‘MATT’ in slanted capital letters on a sticker. To your dismay they peel off the sticker and slap it onto your nice new jumper. Tonight everyone will know your name. You are ‘MATT’. You prepare your hand for shaking and your face for smiling and with a deep breath you walk into the room.
We’ve all been there. The dreaded networking event. It’s true, building real relationships with real people is still one of the most effective ways of growing a successful small business, it’s just now there are so many great ways to do this online.
This blog is going to show you how to network more effectively by using online tools that range from a small tweak to your website to bringing potential business partners to you by starting your own networking group.
Obvious, right? Using social networks to network. Maybe true but you’d be surprised how many businesses ignore social media or don’t get the basics right.
To begin at the beginning, whatever your business – baker, accountant, dog walker – you will benefit from having a social media presence. Start with Facebook and Twitter and link to them from your website. AddThis provides free social media buttons you can use for this. Your interactions with potential customers who visit your website will increase without you lifting a finger.
The second thing to know about networking on social media is that a scattergun approach does not work. Do your research. Identify potential business partners that compliment your business and vice versa. Then message them, email them and tweet them. Do this creatively so they can’t resist responding.
Social loves small businesses. For example Twitter’s Small Business Planner app is a huge help for any business planning their social activity for the month. They provide you with all the relevant events and trends to plan your content around. Joining these big conversations is what networking is all about.
Away from social media, connecting with people online is a little trickier. This is why when you’ve identified someone you would like to work with you need to prove to them that you can add value to their business right from the start.
A great way to do this is to invite them to guest post on your blog or website. This is valuable to them in two ways. Firstly they gain increased exposure and are able to sell their business in one way or another. Secondly this gives them a link back to their website which increases their domain authority making them more important and searchable in the eyes of Google.
This kind of trick is so simple and can start new conversations with a potential business partner as well as their network.
If you are ready to go out there and do some proper, old-school, face-to-face networking, why not be smart about it and do it on your terms.
Start with Meetup, a hugely popular tool that enables you to bring together a group of local, like-minded people who have the same goals and interests. If you don’t feel like starting your own there are loads of useful Meetup groups already established you can go along to.
Once there, don’t leave anything to chance. Namerick is a neat little app that makes it far easier to remember the names of potential new clients or partners. Or go green with CamCard, which, once you take a photo of a business card, automatically saves the details in your contacts.
Networking is just as important as ever but luckily for you it no longer means shuffling around a heaving room looking for someone to talk to. Be smart, use tech and online tools and say goodbye to sticky name tags.