Table of Contents
School is in session and the new year is here…Business New Year that is! It’s time to revive your business networking strategy. And I don’t mean boring in-person events with awkward handshakes. Welcome to the world of networking on social media, where meaningful connections and hidden opportunities await. Twice this week alone I have had people reach out to me to discuss business because we are connected on LinkedIn. Take a sip of your coffee and read through these tips for small business networking on social media.
The Power of Networking on Social Media
Before we dive into the details, let’s understand why networking is essential for your small business. It’s not about amassing contacts; it’s about building meaningful relationships and discovering hidden opportunities. Networking on social media helps to build your brand awareness! While you may want to set a specific number of contacts as a goal, remember there is no magic number that will suddenly make you “successful”.
In the digital age, social media acts as your map, guiding you to potential collaborators, mentors, and customers. It’s the secret sauce that can elevate your small business.
Casting the Digital Net
Imagine you’re a skilled angler casting a digital net into the vast ocean of social media. Your catch of the day? Valuable connections! To reel them in, you need a strategy:
- Choose Your Arena: Select social platforms that align with your industry and target audience. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – each offers unique networking opportunities. It’s aways easier for you, one person, to learn to use a different network than to try to persuade a large group of people to switch to your preferred network. Go where your fish are hanging out already!
- Craft an Engaging Profile: Your social media profile is your digital introduction and handshake. Make it warm, professional, and inviting. Show your personality to stand out.
- Engage Authentically: Networking isn’t a one-way street. Engage with others’ content, share insights, and genuinely connect with their stories. Try to do more than simply clicking the like button or the suggested auto-response.
- Join Communities: Participate in industry-specific groups and communities on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. They’re digital gatherings where you can interact with peers.
Navigating the Networking Waters
Now that you’ve cast your net, let’s navigate these networking waters like seasoned explorers:
- Quality > Quantity: It’s not about accumulating a vast list of contacts; it’s about cultivating meaningful relationships with those who matter most. Spend a bit more time on the front end researching and finding the best people with whom to connect rather than simply connecting with everyone suggested to you by the algorithms.
- The Art of Conversation: Strike up conversations, ask questions, and be an attentive listener. Networking thrives on the exchange of ideas. There is no thought leadership in constantly saying “Me too” or “I agree with her thoughts.” Tell us what YOU think. Show YOUR expertise, value and opinions.
- Value Exchange: Networking is a mutual journey. Offer help, share resources, and be generous with your knowledge. The more you give, the more you’ll receive.
Social Media Etiquette – Your Guide
In this digital world, there are rules of engagement. Here’s a quick and dirty guide for social media etiquette:
- Respect Boundaries: Honor people’s time and privacy. Avoid spammy messages or overwhelming others with unsolicited content. If someone doesn’t respond to your pitchslap (pitching them on first contact)…well first of all don’t pitchslap, but secondly, don’t pitch them again or beg for attention.
- Stay Professional: Maintain a professional tone and avoid controversial topics that might steer your interactions off course. Politics is highly divisive and while I’m all in for stirring up a conversation, be absolutely sure you’re ready to deal with the consequences of being controversial or contrary.
- Follow Up: After making a new connection, send a follow-up message or a thank-you note. NOT A PITCH. It’s a courteous gesture that sets a positive tone.
Turning Connections into Opportunities
Networking isn’t just about accumulating contacts; it’s about transforming those connections into tangible opportunities:
- Collaborations Await: Partner with fellow business owners for joint ventures, co-authored content, or cross-promotions.
- Referrals on the Horizon: A strong network can be a source of referrals and recommendations. Build trust through your content, and others will refer your services like a trusted guide.
- Learning Hub: Your network is a treasure trove of knowledge. Ask questions, seek advice, and keep learning. It’s like having your personal library of wisdom.
Even the most seasoned networkers encounter challenges, from dealing with spammers to managing time. Here’s how to navigate these challenges:
- Spammers: Block and delete. It’s honestly not worth any more of your valuable time to engage with the sugar daddies looking for a date and the SEO experts guaranteeing you quick results. If networking is the game, quality is the goal, not quantity.
- Time Management: Make yourself a checklist of things to do each day and stick to it. Set a goal for the number of new connections, follow ups, comments and content posts. Do it and get back to the work that actually pays the bills. 20 minutes of focused work a day on one site can accomplish a lot in the realm of networking! My friends over at KA Social Media even have a checklist you can download!
- Rejections and No Responses: Not everyone you reach out to will respond positively, and some may reject your connection request or collaboration proposal. Handling these rejections gracefully is an essential skill. And remember, every no gets you closer to your next yes!
As we embrace boots, sweaters and hot drinks, remember networking isn’t just about collecting contacts; it’s about nurturing connections that can steer your small business toward success. Networking on social media is only one small part of a good social media strategy. Make a plan and stick to it to embark on the networking journey, and watch your small business thrive.