The Dos and Don’ts of Online Networking
Online Networking is a waste of time! Seriously, I know. If you don’t network in the right way, networking IS a waste of time. It really doesn’t work. In my experience of running a networking community for women, I have seen many people (too many) under value the monumental impact of online networking.
Naturally, there’s always going to be a great deal of overlap between in-person and online networking. In lots of ways, building online relationships is easier because we can do it 24/7.
It doesn’t matter who you are, what type of business you run, how small or big your business is, online networking is a MUST for everyone.
Networking is not just about going to events, shaking hands and swapping business cards. In fact these days, we do so much more of our networking in the online world.
Here are my top tips on the dos and don’ts of online networking:
DO Join a community
There are literally thousands and thousands (and then some) of online communities that you can get involved in. Many offer fantastic platforms to ask questions and get involved. Become an active part of these communities. Find one that suits you and get involved. Most importantly find online communities where your ideal client hangs out. Join a few, not hundreds. Focus your time in getting visible in a handful. Less is definitely more.
DO Get visible
Take the time out to comment on other people’s posts whenever you can. This will not only let people know that you actually exist, but will also show your character and what kind of person you are based on how you comment and the feedback you give. If you take some time out to comment on peoples posts and help them out, they will remember you for this. Make the contact you have about THEM, not YOU. People DO buy from people. They want to get to know the person behind the business. ALWAYS remember this.
DO Introduce yourself without selling
Tell people who you are and what you do. Tell them a story about you and your business. Don’t just jump in with a spammy sales post. Nobody likes these. Nobody reads these type of posts. Suggest ways in which you could work together that will offer mutual benefits as opposed to trying to sell something. Tell them about the value you can give and what problem you will solve. Don’t (EVER) just post a link and run! It’s rude and you will not gain clients this way. Add value before you sell. Be clear, not clever. When you do go in for the ask, have one clear message. Make it easier for somebody to say yes to you.
DO Recommend other businesses
My ethos and one I am very passionate about is to encourage the concept that the very best way to get more referrals is to give more referrals. Yep, really! The more you talk about and promote other people’s businesses, the more you will attract attention and get referrals yourself. Talk about other businesses on social media, share their posts, mention them in blog posts and at every opportunity you have. You will be surprised by who notices you doing this and how it will lead to more opportunities for you directly. If you give, stuff will come back to you. Reciprocity is one of the cornerstones to success. Networking even in the online world is a two-way street.
Offer something instead of asking for something. If somebody goes out of their way to help you, even if you don’t become their client, make sure you properly thank them. You could even consider writing a review or sharing one of their posts with a recommendation or thank you.
DO Link with other businesses
Linking with other businesses is a really important and effective way to build traffic to your website, AND another way to build a relationship. By offering to link between your business and another, you are also endorsing each other. Not only does this help to strengthen your relationship it also creates opportunities too. Everybody wins.
DO Have a different strategy on each of the social media channels
Don’t just post the same content on each channel. Have a think about how you can use each one differently. For example, I use Instagram to show images that give an insight into my business and home life. I use my Facebook biz page to broadcast information and I use my groups to really get to know my audience.
DO Invite people to connect online in an offline way
I communicate with so many women in the online world on a daily basis. Incredible and lasting relationships can be forged in the online space. However, it is quite something to bring that relationship into the real, face-to-face world. Even if you can’t physically get to meet somebody in-person, have a zoom or skype call so that you can physically look at each other and interact. This will help to strengthen your relationship. I’m always looking for opportunities to meet face-to-face with my online contacts. You should too.
DO spend some time
Online networking should be part of your everyday marketing activity. You have to invest the time. You wouldn’t go up to somebody in the street, thrust your business card in their face and expect them to buy something from you, would you? Online networking is no different. If you network online randomly it won’t work. You have to be committed to the process and consistent and accept it takes time. You can’t turn up once a month in the online world and expect somebody to buy something from you. They won’t. Schedule some time in your diary daily, yes daily if you can. The more time you invest over a period of time, the more results you will see. It takes time, commitment and consistency to get results from online networking.
DON’T Be Hasty
Not everyone is online all of the time (even if you are), so give your online contacts a while to reply before you contact them again. Don’t spam them with constant messages if you don’t hear from them.
DON’T Spam People
Don’t set out to network just to gather leads and to then send people repeated messages. Get a return on the time you invest by knowing who your ideal clients are, where they hang out and know how you can serve them. In time, if you do all of the above, the right people will approach you.
DON’T Network for Quick Wins
There is a process. It takes time to build relationships. It takes time to get to know people. Don’t disregard somebody because you don’t think they will become a client. They may know somebody who needs your product or service. Networking is like a domino effect. You never know who you are talking to and who that person might talk to and so it goes on. ALWAYS leave a lasting impression on somebody. You never know what might come from something and often the best relationships or collaborations are the ones you least expect.
DON’T Network to Get
If your plan is to join zillions of Facebook groups to drop your link and run, please don’t bother. Not in my groups anyway! You will be one of those people, who others avoid. The best way to attract people is by offering solutions and being generous with your time and expertise. If you give something back, you will have a queue of people wanting to get to know you. The most effective and successful online networkers are those who take the time out to show interest in others and never try to sell something. If you are pushy and do nothing but pitch your business, people will run from you!