Digital Handshakes: Crafting Your Online Networking Success
With 90% of Americans using at least one social platform, it makes sense why we write a lot about social media here! Finding your audience, engaging with them, and building a community are all crucial things to implement in any small business’s marketing plan. But even if you’ve followed all of the advice we’ve written blogs about, you probably still aren’t using social media to its full potential. Did you know you can bring your networking skills online? And no, we aren’t talking about the Chamber of Commerce meeting that got moved to Zoom. According to LinkedIn, networking on social media can help you “discover new ideas and trends, connect with existing and new audiences in deeper ways, bring attention and traffic to your work, and build, craft, and enhance your brand.”
Bottom line: social media is just one more place to network. What works in person works online too! Read on to learn about bringing your networking skills to the World Wide Web.
Step One: Build Your Social Presence
First, do a little research about your target audience! We’ve written about this before, so if you would like some more detailed guidance, check out our blog, Communicating with your Ideal Client. Once you know who you want to connect with, make a list of platforms you would like to be present on. Consider where your audience spends their time, where your competitors are, and what type of content each platform needs in order for you to be successful (ex. if you don’t want to be making long-form videos, you may not want to be on YouTube). You can prioritize one of the platforms on your list if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Second, create or strengthen your profile and/or business page. Is it complete? Do you have a current profile photo? Is it on brand for you and your company? (Hint: on LinkedIn, use a professional headshot.) Make sure all of your profile/page’s content represents you and your company well, and you’ll be ready to move on to step two!
Step Two: Be Engaging
This one is easier said than done. Post engaging content regularly! Your goal is to create a place where your audience wants to spend their time. This can be common ice breakers, dad jokes, trivia, inspirational quotes, or anything else you would want to see on your personal feed.
Engaging your audience also means engaging with other pages! You’re creating a community that people want to be a part of here, so show them that you also are involved in the community by liking, commenting on, and sharing pages you like as well as those of your networking partners, your community, and businesses you frequent. You can also join relevant community or industry groups (especially on Facebook) then show up and make friends. Social media is a place to be a part of the community, not just a place to post your ads.
This may come naturally as you’re engaging with other people’s content, but make sure to adopt a Give First mindset. Make recommendations and give advice when it’s asked for! Becoming a resource for your fellow community members shows that you’re trustworthy, which will make people want to learn more about your business. They may even turn into a lead, even if your recommendation had nothing to do with you or your company!
Step 3: Avoid the “Hard Sell.”
It’s called “social” media for a reason. People want to look at memes, not see yet another ad. We like to follow the 80/20 rule for our clients’ content and for our content: 80% of content should be “fun” and 20% of content should be sales. Social media is not advertising; it’s a place to build relationships! Strive to Entertain, Educate, and Inspire (80%) before you start selling (20%). If you’d like more guidance on how to create your ongoing social media strategy, take a look at our blog, Social Media Sizzle!
Step 4: Use Good Etiquette
We hope this step goes without saying, but don’t argue with people online. It’s rarely fruitful, but the more important reason is that it can take away from your reputation. Make friends. Be helpful. Be kind. Do the things we learned in Kindergarten.
Step 5: Leverage Your Network
For the same reason we want to get reviews, we want to be recommended on social media. We have a huge opportunity in our groups to help each other out online!
Just like determining which platforms you want to use, figure out what groups your preferred customers might join. Are they community groups like Oregon City Chit Chat? Small Business Groups? Industry Groups? Choose a few and go join them. Make sure you read the rules in each group before posting; some allow you to promote your business with a post in the feed (and those groups usually limit how often you can do so) and some only allow you to ask for help or make recommendations.
Start by building trust with your fellow members and online by recommending others. It can be your fellow networking members, which we highly recommend in our groups, or it can be anyone else you’re connected with. Become a trusted referral source in whichever communities you choose to join!
One big perk of membership in our Flourish Networking groups is that we strongly take advantage of our online networking opportunities. We have our own Facebook group where we share opportunities to tag and recommend each other in other groups. This expands our ability to be good referral partners to each other! Not everyone encounters someone in their daily lives who needs a roofer, for example, but you’re more likely to come across an opportunity to refer that networking partner in a community group online.
Another perk of membership is that every meeting includes an education component. Today’s blog comes from one of our trainings! If you liked this blog, make sure to visit our groups (and maybe even become a member!) to learn more about how to maximize your networking potential and become a trusted referral source in your community. We’d love to welcome you to the #FlourishFam!
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