Connecting Online: 11 Ways for Effective Business Networking

If you want to maximize your business networking to its fullest potential, you have to do it both outside the office and while you’re glued to your gadgets. That means actually meeting people face to face and building your connections online. Neither is more important than the other; instead, think of it as two very important and interlinked parts of your business networking. You can’t do well in one and completely mess up the other – it just doesn’t work that way.

Think you already have your personal business networking nailed down? If so, then you’ve got half of the equation solved, so to speak. Here’s how you can complement it with great digital marketing too.

  1. Decide who you are. Social interactions have a lot of repercussions that may be felt long after you’ve uploaded that post or made that comment. What does this mean? In a nutshell, it’s this: exercise courtesy and discretion, and build an online reputation that’s professional and credible. Of course, this doesn’t have to entail you having an online personality transplant and being someone you’re obviously not. But you do have to consider that whatever you do online is a reflection not only of your business but you as a person, so act accordingly.   
  2. Never spam. You don’t like spam – and neither does everybody else. So just don’t do it. Refrain from pitching promotional messages on social media and, instead, utilize these platforms to cultivate connections and build your network. It’s understandable that you want to promote your business, but hounding people on social media is as bad a marketing strategy as you can possibly imagine.  
  3. Learn to limit self-promotion. Of course you want to let people know what your business is about, but it can’t be the only topic you’re willing to post online. Create a proper business page for your company and keep your personal page separate. If you really have a compelling urge to post something business-related on your personal page, keep it at a minimum. And even on your business’ social media accounts, post topics that your target customers will find relevant and relatable, or at the very least, light and interesting.  
  4. Be generous with sharing helpful information. One thing that makes online social networking so engaging is the countless opportunities to learn something new. Isn’t that why you often find yourself scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook or watching YouTube if you want to check out, say, a new recipe? If you have something that will help your audience solve their problem or make things easier for them to do, share it on social media. You’ll gradually establish yourself as a subject matter expert that way.
  5. Reach out to new people. Your business won’t grow if you’re connected online with only the people you already know. That being said, you can’t randomly add people and expect them not to block you. Take the initiative to reach out, yes, but give them a valid reason why you’re even sending out a connection invite in the first place.   
  6. Know how to participate. If you’re attending an event, you can’t sit alone at the farthest corner table and expect to meet a lot of new people, can you? Networking online is pretty much the same thing except – of course – with gadgets in tow. So participate in forums and discussions, retweet and share posts that you like, and comment on blogs. The point is to take some action; the last thing you want to be is a silent lurker.    
  7. Don’t assume. Just because you’re in good terms with someone online doesn’t automatically give you the permission to pitch your product or service. So unless they ask for it, don’t assume and always err on the side of caution.
  8. Give importance to your online connections. Your online social contacts are part of your life the same way your offline connections are, so learn to value both of them. Besides, in a similar way that an unexpected meeting can lead to a great friendship, you just don’t know what a seemingly mundane comment can likewise spell out in the future: a business deal, an investment, or a big client.
  9. Take the time to get to know other people. Interacting online is still interacting, so you still need to pay attention. So take the time to build meaningful relationships by finding people you have common grounds with, say other entrepreneurs, and learn about them. You should also make a lot of effort to know how you can better serve your customers. Listen to their feedback and deliver products and services aligned with that.
  10. Generate ideas from the chatter. Instead of something that you do simply to pass the time, start regarding your social media as a powerful tool to get ideas. The discussions, the trending topics, and the talked-about events can do wonders in letting you in on what’s happening with your network – and how you can use that to help your business improve and grow.
  11. Learn when to say no. Meaningful connections are based on mutual trust and respect. If you receive an anonymous invitation to connect, you don’t have to feel obligated to accept. If someone offers to partner with you in business, and you feel uneasy about, you don’t have to push through with the contract. Set your boundaries and know when it’s OK to reject an offer.   

It’s very likely that you’ve been active – or at least reasonably connected – on social media even before you ventured into having your own company. But now that you do have your own business, no matter how small it is, it’s best to realize the profound influence and contribution good social networking can make on your business. Of course, there are always two sides of the coin, and online networking is not an exception. If you don’t utilize it properly, it has the potential to harm your business as well. The best course of action, then, is to turn it to your advantage – not against it.

How do you use social networking in your business? Let us know in the comments.