- Posted by Alaia Williams
- On December 2, 2013
- networking, networking with social media, professional networking, Social Media
It’s been said that networking helps keep your fingers on the pulse of your business. After all, without making the investment in time and effort to network effectively, a business will sicken and eventually even die. There is help, however. Just as a medical professional has an array of devices to help monitor the pulse of patients, you too have technological tools available to assist in small business networking. Let’s take a brief look at one of the most powerful of those tools – social media.
To give you an idea of the networking potential that social media has, imagine how much time the average small business owner spends emailing; reading, organizing, and answering. According to Nielsen, we spend more time using social networks than emailing! The success of networking sites is further confirmed by examples like LinkedIn, which reported upwards of 75 million members spanning 200 countries worldwide.
Quality before quantity
Just because, thanks to the miraculous abilities of the internet, you can connect to millions of users doesn’t mean that you should (in spite of those wonderful statistics we just reviewed!). It can certainly be all too easy to lose sight of the fact that networking is, essentially, about developing relationships. You may remember as a child discovering the ability to create fire by using a magnifying glass to focus and intensify light-rays from the sun. Similarly, by intensifying and focusing your efforts and attention on people, your networking and marketing efforts will be set on fire!
One of the first things that many people learn in sales is the importance of “asking for the sale.” The principle holds true for social networking sites as well. In order to develop a business relationship with, well… anybody, there will actually have to come the time when you carry out the process of requesting a connection with the hopes of engaging in a conversation.
It’s important to keep in mind that requests you make should be personal. Nobody really enjoys getting a generic connection request. Take some time to view a person’s profile, learn a bit about them, and let that be reflected by individualizing the requests that you do send. You then set the stage for developing a real, lasting relationship of warmth and respect, an ideal that any business would do well to emulate.
As with any other environment, the online world has its own set of standards and rules governing what is generally considered appropriate behavior and communication. For instance, writing in ALL CAPS is the online equivalent of shouting. Also, keep in mind that, although companies may vary with respect to individual levels of formality, professionalism appropriate to the circumstance is always possible.
Most social networking sites contain a mechanism that allows you to “follow” other members, organizations, and companies. This allows you to stay up-to-date on your competitors, industry trends, employment data, and even the latest happenings in people’s lives. Of course, this feature also works both ways. Keep others informed and current with your own business by encouraging people to follow you in return.
With all the wonderful possibilities provided by social media, it’s important to remember that nothing has the full impact of face-to-face networking. However, even in the case of such things as industry conventions and networking events, social media sites can prove invaluable. By researching companies and individual contacts ahead of time, you drastically increase the likelihood of creating valuable network connections effectively.
Networking is an absolute must for any small business that wants to not only survive, but to thrive. Your network, in turn, is only as strong and effective as the way that you manage it.