Social networks are not just powerful promotion tools. If you are trying to get clients, media mentions and good opportunities in your industry to grow a name for yourself and your brand, social media can definitely make the job easier.
Obviously, social networking for business is not like networking to make new friends (well, that might happen, too, but it’s not your goal, right?). What you want to achieve here is results — that is, clients, engagement, and opportunities.
This post gives you 6 rules to rock networking for business on social media and get the most out of every session.
1. Targeting the Engagement
Who is your customer or audience, and what do they need?
Who do you want to engage and make business with?
You should keep these two guiding questions in mind if you want to get the best out of your networking opportunities.
The first question addresses the needs of your audience, which will guide you in choosing the business people to interact with and learn from — in fact, anything you do for your business (from product or service delivery to ethics and relationships) affects your customers in the end. In other words, who are the people who might help you do your job better? Those are the people you should meet and engage with.
The second question is about you as a person and a professional, the opportunities you seek to grow a name in your niche or industry, and the people you think of as mentors and you look forward to interact with and learn from.
The practical tip: create a spreadsheet with the names of people you want to get in touch with, their contact information and their role in the industry or niche. Then, make this list your networking focus for the next 6-12 months.
2. Attend Live Events
This is similar to meeting people in person at conferences, and it can work charms to get yourself remembered. In fact, your feedback during the event will be taken into consideration, discussed and perhaps even tested.
At events is also easier to get involved in discussions that are relevant to you as a business owner (since you are already participating in a relevant event) and you can easily demonstrate your expertise.
The practical tip: keep an eye out for webinars, live chats, Google+ Hangouts, live audio and video calls, Facebook Live events, and Twitter chats. As soon as one or more relevant ones come up, join them. Most of these events are free to participate in.
3. Get Involved In Highly Relevant Discussions
Aside from live events, make some time to browse forums and social media for new relevant threads in your niche or industry. They might be in the form of a Medium article, a thread on a Facebook page, Google+ or Threadwatch, a Twitter hashtag or conversation, or the comments to a YouTube video.
Provide your views of the discussed topic, give advice, add a tip or two, and don’t fail to mention (without promoting) what your business tries to help with and your solutions. For example, if you run a gardening shop, you can explain why certain species of flowers are a better choice to plant in a given season and what tools and products you believe to be a more effective aid to the gardener.
The moment other people involved in the discussion find value in your expertise, they’ll naturally want to get in touch and discuss things further. To continue with the gardening example above, providing value will definitely put the shop owner in a good light with any gardening product companies following or participating in the discussion.
The practical tip: start from the social network you are more familiar with and the channels you already are a member of (so other members know you and your value). Make an effort to give your comments and replies some ‘meat’ and provide as much value as possible. Being generous pays.
4. Optimize Your Social Energies
Only be where the people you want to talk to are. The web can become overwhelming with all the “there’s so much more to try out” mentality, and there are potentially thousands of people you could meet and do business with, but your daily hours are limited, and you can’t afford to devote the whole day to social networking, or your business and personal life will be affected.
Pick your social channels carefully, and stick to those.
The practical tip: if your time allows for it, devote one day’s social networking time to one social platform only. That will help avoid a sense of overwhelm and optimize your time and energies.
5. Get In Touch With the Right People
When I mentioned creating a list of contacts to focus on during the next 6-12 months, I meant a narrow list — no more than a hundred people overall. Even less, if you can.
In fact, the more focused your effort, the better the results, because you’ll be able to rely on a calmer mind and a less hectic schedule. Like with friends, it’s easier to grow relationships with a few buddies than with a big group.
The practical tip: make time for each contact throughout the month, even if that’s just an hour ever two weeks. Focus on both the human and the business sides.
6. Find Niche Contacts In Facebook and LinkedIn Groups
Groups are where you can find opportunities for growing your network, so they’re a good place to start if you are new to the niche or industry, or you still have a small network to rely on and nobody to introduce you to gurus and influencers.
Make sure you abide by all rules of the groups where you decide to go “contact fishing” at, because some have very strict spam moderation and filters.
The practical tip: start with the groups you’re already a member of.
What do you do to ensure your business networking opportunities will work to your advantage?
Let us know in the comments!
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