12 terrific ways to professionally network online
Success in business can often come down to who you know. By actively networking you can meet more people – who could include potential clients, business partners, employees or suppliers.
Networking is traditionally done in person by attending physical events, joining business groups and handing out business cards.
But this is not the only way to network. The internet has opened up a whole new system of networking that is also worth taking advantage of. Read on for 12 of the different ways in which you can network online.
1) Post engaging content on social media
Social media is a great tool for building new connections. On top of the option of building followers to keep in the loop, there is also the option of running posts as ads in order to reach out to new people. Of course, if you want your posts to stand out, you do need to make them engaging.
It’s worth not just thinking about eye-catching visuals or great deals, but also thinking of ways to simply encourage social interaction and get different people talking to you. Questions, puzzles, polls and controversial statements all entice a response. By thinking about these kinds of posts, you may be able to start up conversations with new people.
2) Allow comments and respond to them
There’s no point encouraging engagements if replies on your social media posts are disabled. Keep replies open so that people can leave comments, and make sure that you respond to them. This is how you start conversations and build relationships through social media.
On top of enabling replies on social media, consider enabling comments on YouTube videos and blog potts too. You can still introduce measures to moderate comments if you don’t want to be receiving spam or hostile feedback. Just remember that not all public negative feedback is back – such comments may even be a chance to win back unhappy customers, put right misconceptions or build respect by showing off your customer service skills.
3) Follow other professionals and interact with their content
It’s important to not just think about your own content, but the content of other creators. By following other professionals, you can interact with their content and build relationships this way. This includes replying to or sharing social media posts by other social media users, commenting on/sharing YouTube videos by other vloggers, or commenting on/sharing blog posts by other bloggers.
Some of these professionals could be potential customers. In other cases, they could be people who you could partner up with or suppliers. Keeping up conversations can help to create a familiarity that could be useful in converting customers or even encouraging suppliers to offer discounts. Just make sure that you’re being sincere when interacting with others’ content – leaving generic comments or being overly complimentary won’t lead to genuine relationships.
4) Connect with people via LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social media platform built specifically for professional networking. Your LinkedIn page can serve as a public resume or bio that can persuade other professionals into reaching out and connecting with you. At the same time, you can look at the profiles of other professionals and hunt out specific people who you think could make valuable connections.
It’s possible to direct message people through LinkedIn and start private professional conversations. This could include anyone from fellow business owners who you fancy cross-promoting with to promising clients who you think would enjoy your product. You can even headhunt new employees through LinkedIn.
5) Join relevant Facebook groups
Facebook groups can serve as digital communities for connecting with like-minded people. In many ways, they have replaced forums (although some forums do still exist and can equally be a good place to network). There are Facebook groups themed around just about everything you could imagine. This includes groups for local businesses, groups dedicated to certain industries, job advertising groups and groups dedicated to sales of certain products.
When joining Facebook groups, it’s important to consider the rules when it comes to promotional content. Some groups are set up specifically for promotional content, while others are purely for conversation and may throw you out of the group if you post anything promotional. Only by searching for these groups will you find most of them. Try to focus on relevant groups that are heavily active and that have a lot of members.
6) Attend webinars and online conferences
Events like trade shows, conferences, seminars and launch parties are some of the best situations for networking. And there is now an online equivalent to most of these events. These typically involve entering a private chat room or private group video call where you can be introduced to new people.
Webinars can be great for learning from experts and meeting fellow business owners. Online conferences can similarly be great for connecting with other professionals while discussing specific topics. These online events are often advertised through social media or event advertising websites. Look out for events that interest you where you’re likely to make useful connections and consider signing up to them today.
7) Send out cold emails
You can also connect to potential clients, business partners or other useful connections by simply emailing them directly. While cold emails can sometimes end up in spam, those that are personalised and unique typically won’t (so don’t just bulk mail a load of identical emails). Emails are sometimes the best places to make requests if you can’t connect to people via social media. Just make sure that you have the right email address to get through to the right person.
Cold emails are particularly essential to PR when it comes to approaching publications for media coverage. They’re also a great tool for inviting select people to events. You can also apply to job vacancies directly via email or contrastingly approach suitable candidates for job openings at your company.
8) Use networking apps
Beyond LinkedIn, there are a number of apps that have been specifically designed for professional networking. Bizzaboo is great for organising events – including physical and virtual events. GroupMe is meanwhile used by many professional organisations for group chats. Clubhouse features audio chat rooms for connecting with various professionals. There is then Lunchclub which can connect you with video meetings that are relevant to your interests.
Experiment with some of these apps to see if you can build extra connections through them. You may even be able to find other apps that aren’t specifically designed for professional networking to build connections (such as fitness apps for attracting personal training clients or music sharing apps for connecting to other musicians).
9) Sign up to online timebanking platforms
Timebanking is a unique way to exchange services in which you use time as a currency. Professionals can connect with one another and exchange each other’s services for a set amount of hours. For example, a website designer could connect with a financial advisor – the website designer promises to offer the financial advisor several hours of their time to help them build a website, in exchange for several hours of free financial advice sessions.
Many startups with little funds find timebanking to be incredibly useful as a way of obtaining free services while also generating initial customers to build experience. On top of this, it can be great for building new connections with people around the world. There are many sites dedicated to timebanking online.
10) Connect with influencers
Influencers are people who have a large following online who can be paid to promote your product/service and build its exposure. There are online platforms that you can use to connect with influencers who may be relevant to your brand.
Some companies establish long-lasting relationships with influencers that result in constant sponsorship. Instead of paying influencers, it may also be possible to take a timebanking approach and do some cross-promotions – they sponsor your product, while you sponsor theirs.
11) Sponsor other company’s products or services online
Providing there isn’t a conflict of interest, it can be beneficial to also sponsor products and services of other companies. You can do this online through social media posts or by featured articles on your website.
To get paid as a sponsor, it’s worth signing up to influencer marketplaces. The bigger your online presence, the more you will be able to charge companies to sponsor their products and services. Sponsoring other companies can not only be a great source of passive income but also a great way to build relationships with other professionals.
12) Join online business competitions
There are many online business contests that you can sign up to in order to receive awards and prizes. These contests aren’t just great for potentially boosting your reputation, but can also help you connect with other professionals – there may be private chat rooms that entrants can join where you can get to know other business owners.
Examples of online competitions could include local ‘best new business’ competitions, web design contests, ebook contests and social media contests. Search for competitions related to your industry or skills and see what you can find.