How to get the most from online networking
Last month we covered 10 ways to get the most from in-person networking and this month we’re bringing you some top tips to get the most from networking online including using your social media platforms.
Networking online and in-person is hugely valuable to small businesses. Not only will you find potential clients, but you’ll meet and get to know people, forge friendships and mutually beneficial relationships.
There’s an etiquette that should be mentioned when networking – whether that’s online or offline, and that’s quite simply, don’t push hard sales. No one likes being ‘sold to’, so bear this in mind in the first instance when you’re connecting with folk.
Online networking events
There are a vast number of virtual networking events out there and some will prove more valuable to you than others. Establishing which will be beneficial to you and your business is vital as some of these events require a lot of your time and energy. So, think about what you want to achieve, who else is going to be there, are you looking to connect with peers or are you just wanting to drive leads?
Whatever your motive, have a think about the type of event that works for you, they often vary in format and are hosted in different ways on different platforms. For example, events hosted on Remo allow you to ‘move’ around virtual tables like you would in person – you can see who is on which table and you can choose which table to join, whereas those on Zoom tend to rely on the host of the event allocating you to a ‘room’ – whether that be one they have predetermined, or at random.
And don’t forget, being online means you are not restricted in the events you attend, you can join an event anywhere in the world!
Know what you want
As above, knowing exactly why you’re going to an event and understanding what you want to get from it is important. My advice would be to jot down a few things you’re hoping to gain and make it specific. This could be ‘get 3 email addresses from potential leads’, or ‘connect with 2 people in my industry’. Having clear goals will help you stay on track and more likely to walk away with what you want.
Also, if you know who else is attending (just like an in-person networking event you can ask the host for a list of expected participants), why not ask the host to ensure that you are in the same ‘room’ as those people.
Join virtual coffee mornings
If you’re someone who prefers getting to know people rather than pitching your business, a virtual coffee morning could be just what you’re looking for. These events are way more chilled out, and often people are there to talk about their business challenges as well as get to know other people. They’re a great place to find opportunities too as people are more relaxed and open. Remember the point of these sorts of events is to make genuine connections, so leave your sales hat at the door and work on being yourself and helping others.
Be a facilitator
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, why not host your own event or coffee morning? Introduce those you know would be a great fit for working together or who have similar interests. This could take the form of a mastermind where you discuss your current challenges and swap tips and advice. Or it could simply be a getting to know you and your business session. The format would really be up to you, so if you see an opportunity to fill an otherwise unoccupied gap in the market, why not take it? I know of several of these types of events which we started during the first lockdown and were so successful that they still continue today.
Connecting with your ideal client
This is something we hear about a lot, the importance of connecting with your ideal client. But how do we go about it? Of course, knowing and understanding your ideal client is your first step, but once you’ve identified who they are, you need to know where to find them.
We all have our own preference when it comes to social media platforms, and it’s likely you’ll already know where your ideal client likes to hang out. It’s then a case of searching for them. LinkedIn is great for this as you can search industries, job titles, hashtags etc. using their very effective Boleyn Search. Instagram is also like a search engine in that you can search hashtags and keywords which should lead you to the right people, if that’s where your people are! Look at mutual connections and the comments section to find those you know would be a great fit for you and your business.
Connect with your peers and influencers in your niche
Once you have attended an event, make sure that you connect with those already in your industry and people in your niche who you have met. It’s the same on social media too, take time out each week to connect with those people who have an established following and may be able to introduce you to your ideal client. Your ideal client is likely to be amongst these connections, so making friends with the right people can be mutually beneficial.
Ask for introductions
If someone you know is already connected to someone you’d love to work with, ask for an introduction. Introductions are great because you’re being recommended by someone who already has that know, like, and trust factor with the other person. This means you already have a foot in the door, then it’s your job to really engage with the person and find ways in which you can help them. This is a supportive and community driven way to extend your network.
Engage in the comments to raise visibility
Be a conversation contributor. This goes for your own comments as well as others. As you probably well know, comments on a social media post help to raise its visibility and more people will see it. This is your opportunity to get chatting, get to know people, offer support and tips, be friendly and likeable, be funny if that’s your thing. People will see your name more often and start to associate you with a particular area of expertise so think about what you want to be known for, then find relevant posts to get involved with. Even just 10 minutes a day commenting on posts can be really valuable.
Post valuable and helpful tips
Show your value and expertise and be genuinely helpful to people. Nothing beats being helpful. If you post value-based content helping people with their challenges you’re raising your authority and showing your expertise. You don’t have to give it all away but remember not everyone knows what you know, so break it down and offer that value in your posts. Use these posts to share lead magnets too to get people onto your mailing list, or if you see someone struggling with a problem you can help with, send them your lead magnet for free.
Follow up and check in
If you’ve made a genuine connection, keep the conversation going. Find out about the other person and ask relevant questions, see how they’re getting on with the project they told you about, or ask about their dog. Remember these conversations are important and should be meaningful because for a start you’re making a new business buddy, and secondly this relationship will likely turn out to be mutually beneficial in the long run when you’re recommending each other to potential clients.
Off to your first online networking event? Let me know how it goes!
Missed our blog about in person networking? Catch up here.