The old saying ‘no man is an island’ is one that is certainly true in business. All of the most successful business owners credit their success to the people they surrounded themselves with. And even though physical distancing may be the way of the future, for at least some time, social connection in business is as important as ever.
Thankfully there are boundless opportunities for networking online which you can easily and cost effectively embrace. Here are some snippets of advice for making the most of online networking opportunities:
- Set intentions! What do you want to achieve from networking? Do you want to learn something new? Find new collaborators? Gather new product or service ideas? Or perhaps you want to access new markets? Networking without a clear intention will mean you spend hours talking to plenty of people but won’t get much in return. By setting intentions you will be able to easily steer conversations in the direction you want.
- Be seen where your desired audience is! You wouldn’t go to a men’s formal wear hire store to buy a wedding dress so don’t hang out networking on platforms where your audience isn’t present. If you’re in the business to business industry then LinkedIn is definitely a good place to start. Follow others in your industry and see who they are following. If your business is more consumer to consumer then other less formal online networking platforms may work out better for you. Wherever the platform, be sure to be seen. Post regularly, answer queries, comment on other people’s posts and ask questions that start a conversation.
- Don’t let the camera put you off! Yes, I know, everyone hates the camera but rest assured that everyone is sitting behind their computer cringing at their poorly lit reflection. You wouldn’t sit at a physical networking event with a towel over your head, so don’t sit in an online Zoom networking event with your camera off. People network with people. You’ll be much more likely to build meaningful networks if people can see your face.
- Give before you receive! This is true of every networking situation whether online or offline. On average you will do 8 things for people before you get something back, so listen intently to others and their concerns, needs, frustrations etc and ask how you can help them. By this I don’t mean you have to give them hours of your time but perhaps you can offer some advice, lend them a piece of equipment, connect them with someone who can solve a problem for them etc. Little things that have a big impact and leave the other person feeling that you have done something meaningful for them.
- Don’t stew over it. Start Now!! The thought of getting started can be worse than the thought of actually doing the networking so take the first step now. If you’re on LinkedIn or any other online platform, I want you to do 3 things today: 1) Go into your connections tab and add 3 ‘suggested connections’, 2) Comment under a post of someone you would like to get to know more (something as simple as ‘great advice’, ‘love this idea’ or ‘well done’ will suffice) 3) Put up a post. Is there a question you need answered? Pop it up there! Or maybe you could post an intro post so that people get to know you and your business
As well as using LinkedIn there are lots of local networking groups and events happening online. Some to try out would be free Facebook groups such as Bizmerang, Bizmerang Dungannon, Northern Ireland Business and the MAW Network (this one is specifically for women). Women In Business NI, the NI Chamber of Commerce and Invest NI are all also offering free and paid for networking sessions online. There are also some low-cost options you could try out such as the Think Accountability Group and the MAW VIP membership.
If you’d like some help and support in building your networking or the confidence to do so, please do call one of the advisors in Dungannon Enterprise Centre on 028 87 723 489.