There’s more to online networking than how many followers you have on Twitter and how many likes you have on your Facebook page. Really, there is.
Online networking is more about making a connection and how you can both benefit most from your online networking efforts.
You can start out by wanting to build a relationship that’s win/win for both parties, that’s conducted on mutual ground and benefits them you both. You need to have a clear business offer, and know how that helps other businesses. See the Elevator Pitch post here. Give referrals to people that can help your clients. Aspire to be the person that goes out their way to thank someone or offer someone a mentoring relationship when they are floundering and need support.
Next, know the reason you are networking and don’t stray from that path. It might work out for little red riding hood, but it won’t work out for you. There are many and varied paths in the business world – put your “focus” glasses on and get to work. Finally, when networking online you need to open up the lines of communication. Encourage conversation by asking open ended questions. That’s questions that can’t be answered with just one word. Once you get the other person talking that means you can start actively listening so you know how best to meet their need, offer help or send them a resource.
5 Ways To Better Networking Online
1. Networking with your peers in business is all about building a relationship.
It’s not about sales, it’s not about pressuring other people to do things for you. It’s about them talking about you and your business in a positive way. Not sure where to start? Start with something you have in common – a business practice, a piece of red tape, anything business related is usually good. Show a little of your personality and who you are. Sarah recommends not talking in the third person when you meet someone. Sarah thinks it sounds weird. Take the conversation back to you, say “I” instead of “we”, yes we sounds bigger, it also makes you sound out of reach.
Valuable tips in conversation are priceless and repeatable, that doesn’t mean you have to talk in witty oneliners or sound bites, but share things that will make the person feel valued as well as the added bonus of making you feel memorable. Increase their exposure by making a generous offer that will help build their business – offer a guest blogging slot, create an interview with them for your podcast or blog. Mention them in your newsletters, link to their content and share it with your audience.
2. Give Over and Beyond What is Expected
There are some things that are expected in a business relationship like getting contact information, referring businesses to clients, supporting independent businesses and reviewing products and giving feedback. Do better, and offer more than what is expected.
Instead of sending an email, send a handwritten card. No time to write a card? Book the services of Anita over here at send a flowercard. Get the advantage over your peers by calling up your contact and brainstorm together ways of boosting business.
3. Know Your Purpose & Stick to It
If you know why you are networking online you will waste less time and it will be more successful for you. Write your purpose, your aims and your goals and tape it to your monitor or wall. Just put it somewhere were you will see it often and be reminded of what you are aiming for. You’ll also find when you set aside time to network on social media or forums you are focused on what needs to be done instead of procrastinating. Scared of wasting time? Setting a timer might be beneficial as you start out.
Having an accountability partner can also benefit you. Mastermind groups are great for this – connect with each other once a week and review your goals. I’ve belonged to some terrific mastermind groups and have benefited greatly from them. You will too, and if you can’t find one to join, go and create one.
4. Ask Open Ended Questions
Just as in face-to-face contacts you want to engage in conversation, your online relationships are no different. To do this try not to ask yes or no questions rather ask open-ended questions that will get people talking. Find out about the other person, think of it as a fact finding mission. Try not to sound like you are interrogating them… Asking them about who their ideal customer is will help you make better referrals. If they have no idea who their ideal customer is, then send them to me, we can book a blog strategy session and work it out. The chances are their ideal reader is also their ideal customer.
5. Be Interested and Listen Actively
I have the curse of being a former publican. I am trained to listen to what is going on around me in order to head trouble off. If you are like me, you might struggle to look your contact in the eyes and smile online but you can still relay interest by actively listening (or reading) to what they have to say, repeating back part of the conversation and asking intelligent questions. Instead of working out your response listen for clues as to what is important to them. If you need to, write a couple of notes down. A considered response is always the better response.
Resources to help you get your online networking right
How to Write About Yourself – read the post and if you social share the post, you can get an 18,000 word ebook to help you write about yourself. Yep, it’s that simple to get the advice and guidance you need via Suzan St Maur.
Easy Public Speaking – Keith Davis is a world class networker, and public speaker. His site here is packed with epic posts. Grab a coffee, a pen and notepad and start reading.
On Our Bikes – a blog by Jon Stow on business relationships, networking and life. Wry observations, concise advice and a desire to make the world a better place.
Managing your online networking can be beneficial if you have a plan or a stretegy and incorporate it wisely. Remember to nurture relationships, listen attentively, ask questions to spark conversation, give more than is expected and above all know your purpose and don’t deviate from the path.
photo credit: Danard Vincente