In business there is a lot of talk about the power of social media for attracting fans and followers, but one of the most useful functions of social media is networking with other professionals. Many sales these days, come through referrals and having a tight network of other business owners around you, and can help build up the sales that you desire.
What is Social Networking?
Social networking is about connecting with other people who have similar needs and interests to yourself. As the Internet has expanded, it has become much easier to meet people who are interested in the same niche as yourself, even if you live in a remote area. Online social networking allows you to extend your contact base, outside the geographical area that you live in, and connect with people outside of your town, your state and your country.
Social networking is about forming relationships that function to serve both parties. Often this will simply be having a chat about the things you have in common, and over time you will develop a sense of trust and be more likely to refer business onto each other. Remember that social networking, like all good relationships, takes time and it is a long-term solution to good business partners and successful sales.
What are the Benefits of Social Networking in Business?
People are resources that can be used for many different things. If you are working on your own, or in a small business, you won’t have all the skills that you need to run your business effectively. Quite often you will need to outsource to other businesses, like web professionals or graphic designers, and if you have a good social network of other business owners you’ll easily be able to track down quality services at competitive rates.
You may also form relationships for service exchanges. For example, a business coach may offer their services to a web designer, in exchange for the design of their new website. No money has been exchanged, but both parties are happy, and this win-win situation is a common outcome from the time invested in online social networking.
Also, sometimes it is just great to bounce ideas off other business owners. If you work on your own, you can create your own ‘virtual team’, who function just to give each other moral support as friends would. This works well if you are working from home, and are online all day. If you connect with other business owners who work the same way, you will have peer advice that is ‘on tap’ for you whenever you need it.
How can I use Social Media to Network with Other Business Owners?
Social media can be used to network with other business owners. Firstly it is important that you meet new people, so sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can assist you in finding those first introductions. Perhaps your first contacts are people that you already know, from old jobs or people who you met at trade shows or conferences. When you track them down on social media you get to have a catch up, find out what each other are doing, and keep in contact as business social networking partners online.
Make contact yourself. Look up people that you have connected well with before, and say hi. Send them a message or an invitation on the social media site of your choice, and ask them what they have been doing.
Act confident and there is no need to be shy about social networking. There is nothing intrusive or wrong about it. You are not trying to sell. You are just trying to use online tools to develop valuable and genuine business relationships.
Avoid being pushy. Sometimes people are busy and it will take time to work out who will have online discussions with you and who won’t. Be respectful and the same courtesy and manners that apply offline also apply online.
Which Social Media Sites Are Best For Online Business Networking?
Facebook is great for people that you know, however many people prefer to keep their profiles for close friends and family only. There are no rules about this, so just be aware of different people’s preferences. There is also no reason why you can’t network online with friends and family members with shared business interests.
Twitter is a fantastic site for social networking, however you need to interact. Don’t just view the tweets, reply to them. Introduce yourself, make conversation, tweet yourself and get involved in the key topics of interest. If you like someone’s tweets, add them on LinkedIn which is the ultimate of business networking. LinkedIn is all about networking for business, so take a look, because that’s what everyone is there for!