The ABC’s of Expanding Your Network Online

Following on from our last post on traditional networking, today’s blog explores the topic of online networking, which, when utilized correctly, can lead to valuable business contacts. If you feel that you are still a ‘newbie’ to online networking, read on and be energised to start today! 

Where do you start? You may want to start with one or two social media channels or select a combination of social media channels:

Four digital networking options: 

1.Blogs: These can be accessed and read by customers and other industry professionals.  Blogs are interactive and will enable you to identify potential business customers or contacts by: 

a) Developing your own blog: Post regular stories or content from your website. Alternatively, post a topic of interest or a thought provoking idea to stimulate discussion and interaction.

b) Commenting/posting on a blog written by someone or a company that you have identified as a possible business contact. This will make them aware of you or your services/company and pave the way to building a business relationship.  

2.Facebook: Identify and join a Group or Page on Facebook that reflects your business interests or which is used by your customers, to start building awareness.  

3.Business networking sites: Create a business profile on specialist business sites such as LinkedIn or BizCommunity to build a community of customers in order to share information, recommend contacts and build up your own network. 

4.Forums: This is the ideal place for people to discuss business ideas and a great platform for discussions within your industry.  It is an opportunity to share your expertise, gain useful industry information and find ‘experts’ that you can connect with. 

Once you’ve established your presence, there is also a few key principles to keep in mind in continuing to build your online network. The points below from Lewis Howes and business gateway will help you to convert your social network contacts to business contacts and retain them:  

1.Take an active interest in a new contact: Get to know as much about the new contact as possible by reading their profile, blogs and posts.   This will enable you to establish any synergy and serves to quickly give you the low-down on a potential contact.  Also, actively comment on their posts or blogs so that they get to know you.  If they have social media communities, go ahead and join them.  These are all ways in which you can grab their attention.   

2.Remember to add value. Just as with networking offline, work out how youcan add value to a contact by identifying synergies or a need. This may getthem interested in continuing a dialogue or meeting you in person. 

3.Don’t bombard your new contact with messages or spam. Qualityinformation will make more of an impact than quantity, and remember to stay relevant to their interests or community. 

4.Never sell or pass on any personal details about your new contacts orbusinesses on your target network without their permission. This will ensure youmaintain your integrity as a valuable and trustworthy contact.

To those of you who are experienced online networkers, do you have any other great tips to help those that are ‘new’ to this method of networking?