Networking is one of the most important things you must do to improve your brand presence and increase your credibility on the web. Business owners understand the importance of connecting with others in their industry and actively work on connecting to others in their niche area.
People naturally connect with people in the real world that they like. People have no trouble finding those people they have an interest in and finding ways to communicate with them. With email, social media, phone, and all of the other ways we have of communicating, it’s easy to stay connected to those we like. But one thing you may want to consider is also to connect with a few people whom you see as competitors.
Bill Gates had a saying that he used when he was developing his Windows platform. He said, “Keep your friends close; your enemies closer.” This can be applied to your online networking as well. You need to network with friends and business partners to gain insight into your industry and think of things that will help you improve your brand awareness.
But if you also connect to those that you are competing with, you’ll always know what they are doing. The goal shouldn’t be to be a spy but just to be aware of their strategies so that you can strategize how to promote your brand.
Some of your competitors may not want you on their social media and may not accept your friend request. But you can still bookmark their social media pages and see what they are up to once in awhile.
The best networking strategy, however, is to focus on the people you feel the most comfortable with and creating goals that you wish to accomplish by setting up those connections. Concentrate on the quality of the relationship, rather than the quantity and find ways you can help others be successful.
Here are some other great tips that may help you improve your networking in 2017:
1. Be authentic.– One of the most important things you should do is to be sincere about your networking connections. Exchanging social media information is now the thing to do at online (and real-world) webinars and seminars. But you should be selective in who you network with and only choose ones that you feel you could build a real symbiotic relationship with.
2. Consider the purpose.– Think of the purpose that you wish to achieve by networking with certain people. Do you consider them as a possible B2B partner? Will they add something to your brand with their resources? What can you do for them? These are questions that you should ask when networking with people. It cleans up the clutter when dealing with your contacts and makes it more about the purpose of your connections.
3. Set goals around your networking connections.– When approaching people to form new networking connections, consider what you hope to accomplish. Are there projects you can work on with the connections? This gives you a talking point with new people that may help you form a bond for a continuing business relationship.
4. Look beyond the sales.– Business owners often make the mistake that networking is all about making money and sales. While you do hope that you will recruit new customers through your networking efforts, it should be more about the long-term relationships that you build rather than the one-time sale.
5. Ask the right questions.– When you network with others, use it as an opportunity to find out what you need to know to promote your branding. Think about your real-world friendships and other relationships. We learn about other people by asking questions that give us information about the other person. Use the same techniques with your business connections, and you will build lasting business relationships.
6.Make it about building relationships– When you make your networking connections about building relationships rather than sales, others will respond to you in a more positive manner. Think about the last time you were shopping for a car. When a car salesperson approaches you, does he start right in with a sales pitch or does he ask something about you? Which would you respond to more favorably? If you want to increase the positive results of your networking efforts, you should focus on building relationships.
7. Make friends, not contacts.– When you network with people online, try to find some common ground that you can build a relationship on. Entrepreneur Magazine states that super connectors are those who focus on making friends rather than contacts. They state that it’s better to have five new connections that you can call friends rather than fifty that you only have contact information on but don’t feel you can benefit from.
8. Give them something back.– Just like in real life relationships, you should think about how you can help the business person that you are connecting with. If you give them something in return for their connection, they may be likely to connect with you. Also, they may also refer to you to others, resulting in even more connections. One thing you can offer them is to help promote them.
Have you thought about doing an interview with your new contacts? If you have an internet radio station or run a weekly podcast, why not offer to feature some of your new contacts on your podcast or radio show? This is an excellent way to promote authors, business owners, and some of your fellow B2B partners. In return, they may do something similar for you.
9. Connect on multiple networks.– When you start a new connection with someone, why not add them across all of your social networks? If they have a Facebook page, chances are they also have a Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest account, as well. Some businesses are on every platform while others are only on Facebook or LinkedIn. But find out the various platforms they are on and connect with them in any way possible. Remember that email is still the main way that business people (and others) communicate besides the phone.
Don’t forget LinkedIn when you are networking with fellow business connections. It is known as the best business social media outlet of all of the social media networks. It’s a great place to connect with potential clients, business partners, and others that you wish to include in your network.
10. Share ideas.– One of the most advantageous reasons to have connections with other people in the business world is that you can learn from each other. While you do want to be careful not to share too much information on your business strategies or trade secrets, when you share ideas with others in your industry, everyone wins.
The Key to Success
The key to successful networking is to choose the people you network with, make quality connections, and nurture those relationships over time. By making it more about the friendships and relationships and offering to do something for them, you may get much more in return.
Making it all about a sale is a shallow approach to networking. But with a concerted effort, you can learn to think differently about how and why you make these connections and reap the results for many years.