When it comes to making your business a success, networking is essential and it’s a task that needs consistent effort to maintain great results.
Networking can be split into two main varieties – online and offline and both are important. Whether your business is based mostly online or off, the best networking strategies combine activity in both, to make sure a brand’s presence is covered from all angles.
Chances are you’re familiar with Facebook and Twitter, perhaps Instagram and Pinterest, but how about LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Flickr... The Social Network landscape is constantly expanding and evolving, and you should make sure to keep in touch with it. Why? Because your customers and potential customers are on those sites, as are your competitors. If those customers can’t find your brand on their favourite network, you may have just lost yourself a sale.
That said, quality is definitely more valuable than quantity. It is far better to build your brand on two or three networks and do a great job than to have a ‘page’ on every network out there that is sparse and infrequently updated.
The key to social networking is the social part. No, customers don’t want to see updates about what you’re having for lunch, but they do want interaction, conversation and engagement. Promotional and scheduled updates are a great way to keep your content updated, but use them sparingly and spend the bulk of your time getting involved and connecting with your contacts one to one.
Look out for ‘twitter parties’, Google hangouts and other online ‘events’ that are relevant to your brand too, these are all great opportunities to put your virtual profile in front of new eyes – contribute and engage without going into full on promo mode and you’ll soon see a boost in your follower figures.
The popularity of social networks and online networking in general often makes business owners think they don’t really need to bother so much offline, if at all. They couldn’t be more wrong! If you use your online networking to support your offline efforts, your business will only go from strength to strength! Even if your business is largely online, there are things you can (and should!) be doing away from the computer to increase your success.
In the same way you’d look for online events to ‘attend’, research what’s going on in the ‘real world’ that is relevant to your business and get out there! Be sure to be armed with business cards and engage with your peers and potential customers face to face. People do still value doing things the old fashioned way, and even in the case of an online business, they may be more likely to visit your site after speaking with you in the flesh than if it’s just another link on a forum. Those contacts you make face to face will often be much more valuable than the ones made online too, as if you can sell yourself, your new contact may be more inclined to share your details to their own network, along with a personal recommendation or introduction.
Think outside of the box and never be afraid to try something new. Ask local cafes if you can leave business cards or flyers on their counter, attend local fetes and swap details with your peers (or of course, book a table of your own!), contact your local newspaper and enquire about advertising – anything that puts your brand in front of people who might not otherwise see it, is a worthwhile exercise!
In short, networking is vital to make your business a success, and the online and offline versions go hand in hand. Work on both together, make your efforts considered and consistent and you can look forward to increased and improved results all round. Good Luck!