Networking is by far one of the most undervalued aspects of entrepreneurial success. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…”
Attending face-to-face networking events can be a really easy way to make new connections. They offer a comfortable atmosphere to meet like-minded professionals, sparking conversations that can often lead to new business opportunities. Even if you don’t secure new business during the event, you’re almost guaranteed to come away with some useful contacts. But with the ever-growing capabilities of the internet, there’s a far easier way that you can make valuable connections and bring in new business: social media networking sites.
A quick background
Websites like LinkedIn and Xing have gained immense popularity over the last few years, opening a new door for proactive business owners. Don’t get me wrong, the value of face-to-face networking can’t be replaced by social media. But the fact that you can make genuine business connections without stepping away from your desk is something that every entrepreneur needs to be taking advantage of.
Another great thing about using these social media networking sites is that they can multiply your impact at at any face-to-face events you attend. Set up instant notifications for relevant networking events in the local area using sites like Eventbrite or Google Alerts. From here, you can take a look at the attendee list and connect with any notable attendees on LinkedIn beforehand. This way, they’ll be more likely to recognise your face on the day of the event.
If you want to take this a step further then you could even drop them a quick message saying something along the lines of “Look forward to seeing you at the event on Saturday! I’ve been meaning to get in touch for a while; it would be great to have a face-to-face catch up whilst you’re there.” This particular technique isn’t for everybody, but if done strategically it can prove invaluable.
In this blog, I share some of my top tips on how to become a networking guru with social media.
Review your LinkedIn profile
With over 250 million monthly active users, you may already have a LinkedIn profile set up. (If not, go set one up right now!) But has your profile been optimised properly?
One of the most straight-forward ways to optimise your LinkedIn profile is to ensure that it is complete. LinkedIn actually has a ‘Profile Strength Meter’, ranging from Beginner to All Star, to help you understand how good your profile is. According to LinkedIn, All Star profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through the platform.
Once you have a complete profile, it’s time to go into more depth. Saying that, it really helps to keep your profile as compact as possible; just like with your CV, you want the most important information to stand out immediately.
Include highly-targeted keywords in your headline; this way you’re more likely to appear on the first page for industry-relevant search terms. Bear in mind there is a 120-character limit, so only choose the most appropriate skills and keywords.
Your LinkedIn summary is a great place to show the value you can offer. Include a brief bio of yourself and your company, along with any standout statistics and achievements. It’s also important to consider using keywords here as this can help you appear in more searches for relevant terms.
Within your ‘Experience’ section it could be wise to include links to any articles that could boost your credibility. For example, if you or your current company have secured any high-level PR or guest blog posts, include these! It’s a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and reputation.
Endorsements & Recommendations
It could also be useful to ask people to ‘Endorse’ you or give you a ‘Recommendation’. Only ask people that you genuinely know and have a good relationship with; any irrelevant endorsements will damage your credibility.
Use a professional profile picture – a low quality photo of you on a night out back in 2009 certainly won’t be good for business. If you don’t already have an appropriate picture of yourself it could be worth investing in a professional photoshoot.
As with face-to-face networking, LinkedIn can be a great place to make sales. But it’s so important to nurture your connections before going in for the kill. If someone approached you for the first time at a networking event and tried to sell you a product, would you be enticed? Probably not. Take time to build a relationship with your online connections; engage with their posts and articles to encourage this. You never know, they may even do the same in return. Once you’ve developed this relationship a bit more you may want to ask them out for a coffee, but make sure there’s a genuine purpose to the meeting and don’t forget to highlight the value you can offer them.
Position yourself as a thought leader
Presenting yourself as a knowledgeable key figure within your industry certainly won’t go unnoticed. Providing value to your connections and sharing your take on the latest industry news through social media posts is a great way to do this. But if you want to go into more detail, you could take advantage of LinkedIn’s in-platform blogging tool, LinkedIn Pulse. Entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Gary Vee regularly use LinkedIn and other social platforms to share content that reinforces their position as thought leaders.
Join relevant groups on LinkedIn
Are you part of any groups on LinkedIn? These can be great places to build relationships with a targeted demographic of LinkedIn users. For example, if you’re a Digital Marketing Consultant you could join a group for CMOs and Marketing Managers, as these people will usually be your main point of contact for any new business. You can use these groups to spread awareness of your services by sharing relevant advice, commenting on internal posts and generally being active. Of course, if you don’t fit the demographic for a particular group there’s every possibility that your request to join will be declined. But if you apply to a broad selection of groups, there should be no reason why you won’t be accepted into at least one of them.
The worst thing you can do is set up profiles on these networking platforms and just leave them to gather dust. Make sure that you actively like and comment on other people’s posts, show gratitude when people do the same to you and behave like you would in a face-to-face networking event. The only difference is this networking event is open 24 hours a day!
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