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Many people think of networking as purely a face to face activity. This became apparent to me when #Covid19 hit and quite a few people opted out of networking with the notion that the lockdown would be a short event and the pandemic would be short lived. There was a refusal to move to online networking through Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting or any other platform.
I think we all know that there is far more permanence to the changes that have taken place this year; much more than any of us would have expected or liked. So I wanted to explore a few ideas of how to nurture your online network.
Where is Your Online Network?
Most in person networking groups moved online to a variety of platforms, but for the purposes of this blog, I want to focus on some ideas and tips on how to nurture your online network. I want to look at the ways in which business owners and professionals, be they self-employed or employed, can bolster up their networking by understanding the range of things they can do to be engaged and involved with their networks. Sometimes it’s the simple things that we can do that are overlooked.
First of all, it’s important to recognise that online networking is a thing. It spans any channel that you work with digitally, from chat to email, social media to whatsapp – so let’s dive in.
As always, you can take the tips that are relevant to the channels you are on for business. If you are expanding your range of channels for 2021, then there might be a few useful nuggets for you.
My first thought around this is: be alert, be open and be mindful of your network.
My second thought around this is: try not to feel overwhelmed by this, if you are not used to this interaction. Integrate some of the points bit by bit and get comfortable with this level of engagement.
I always speak about time management and productivity. Part of managing this is making your processes part of your default diary, so why not factor in 20 minutes at the start of your day to nurture your online network?
Here are a few easy things to start doing today.
- If you are in a network, start following your fellow networkers’ social media channels. Everyone is looking to expand their reach, so spend 10 minutes today connecting in with these businesses. Generally, an easy way to find the social media channels is to go to their business website as the socia media links will all be connected there. It saves you time searching for them, as often social media handles are not necessarily intuitive. Hopefully, as you follow businesses, they’ll start following back. So it’s a win:win.
- Don’t limit the following to just the business accounts. Many people have their own personal accounts that they use for business, so make sure to try to follow them also. It’s a great way to get to know what people are interested in, what matters to them, what’s new, about offers and services. The content mightn’t be relevant now, but it’ll go into your digital rolodex on that person and may be a good conversation starter when you meet them next.
- Blog comments – if you are following someone’s blog, take the time to send it on to someone else who might be interested, or leave a comment on the blog itself to share your thoughts about what you enjoyed about it.
- Twitter – ok, so for Twitter, I will be doing a much longer deep dive into this under-utilised networking platform, but for now, heart tweets from your communities and tribes. You can retweet (RT) posts that you like so that your followers see the post. Even better, you can comment on the tweet and share your thoughts on someone’s tweet.
- Linkedin – like, comment and share posts out. To be honest, ‘liking’ a post does very little today for those ever changing algorithms. But commenting is gold. That’s where the support is shown and the more Linkedin sees comments, the more it opens up posts to a wider group of people. Think about it in terms of ever increasing circles. If you like the post, reshare it out to your followers. Join Linkedin groups related to your interests and your field with a view to joining in the conversations. More tips to enhance your profile here.
- Facebook – share, like and comment on the posts. Tag people in who might benefit from seeing the company and learning about the services and products. Join online Facebook groups and start adding and contributing to the conversations.
- Whatsapp – Having a whatsapp group for networking is a crucial way of instantly connecting people. Whether it’s to get the latest Zoom details for a meetup, requesting a service, giving a referral, a little ‘in the moment’ testimonial, it’s a really good way of keeping you top of mind. From time to time, put out your social media links in the chat, e.g. for Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook or whereever you are socially engaged. Don’t forget to follow back! It’s easy to assume that people are connected, but sometimes I review this for myself and find I’m not connected with someone and I thought I was!
- Sharing articles and news. Send on emails or interesting articles to people in your network. We all sign up to different newsletters, so if you come across something, share it out with a little note, e.g ‘Hey, I came across this article. I thought it would be interesting to you. Hope all is well’ – put it in your own words…it’s the fact that you have thought about the person and taken time to share that will be remembered.
- Emails – This is still one of the best way to keep connected with your community. Of course we are using it for business each and every day, but why not put a little metric on it around your network? Say 10 emails to people in your contact sphere that you haven’t connected with in a while. Reach out to say hello and see how they are. Particularly in these difficult times, people really appreciate the sentiment.
- Testimonials for their website, Google reviews, Trip Advisor…how can you help your community. Have you used their services or products? Reviews and testimonials are gold and really help businesses raise their profile. To whom could you give a shout-out today?
- Thank you. It’s so important to say thank you. Thank your followers and sharers for any engagement. This can be commenting with thanks, but it can equally be through a follow, a share, a like, a comment on the posts that they put out…this will always be gratefully received.
A Few Extra Tips For Implementing The Points Above
Tip – For the testimonials, find out where the business prefers its testimonials to be written and where will give best value to that business. For businesses, it’s a good idea to channel the reviews and testimonials through one channel, to keep them pooled together, e.g. Google reviews. If you take the time to find out, you’ll deliver more impact which will be truly appreciated.
Tip: When sharing articles, posts, retweets, tell people why you are sharing it out and what benefit they will get out of reading an article or post.
Tip: When commenting, contributing and sharing, have the word value, at the back of your mind, i.e. think – what value am I bringing to the conversation? How can I help?
Tip: When joining online groups on Linkedin and Facebook don’t overstretch yourself. Perhaps 5 or so on each platform and see how you go. You can cull groups from time to time and join new ones, as you and your business evolve.
Remember: Networking is, at its very core, about building relationships with other people. It’s a human to human activity. It’s not a logo to logo, brand to brand, website to website, social media to social media activity. It’s about people.
Social media and online activity is not about selling – most of the time – of course there are direct sales posts from businesses, but when it’s the human to human stuff, it’s about building a relationship.
Nurturing your online network is a way to show you care, that you are listening to the online news and chats and that you are taking the time to ‘hear’ and engage with your community and tribe, to support and lift them up.
If you’ve more ideas of how an online network can be nurtured, do share your thoughts in the comments.
Connecting With NetworkingJeanie
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s keep the #networking conversation going!
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