In recent years online business networking has become more and more popular as small business owners struggle to find the time to attend face to face sessions. Online Business Networking is fast, it’s efficient, and, with some investment, you can see results that are as good as if you’d been meeting in person.
How do you do it?
What can you expect?
How can you sign up?
How to do Online Business Networking
Do you remember when (some 20+ years ago) online dating had a bad reputation? Well nowadays it’s embraced by millions, it’s totally accepted and quite frankly, you’re considered a bit odd if you aren’t on a dating site! It’s kind of the same thing.
These days we generally do less face to face relationship building than we used to in most aspects of our lives, preferring to hide behind our phones and laptops, more people are opting for the “safer”, more comfortable option. Why? I think it’s because being online feels much easier and less intimidating than approaching someone directly, or having to walk in to a room of people you’ve never met, plus you can do it in the comfort of your own home (in your joggers/pyjamas etc)!
Online Business Networking is heading the same way for similar reasons and it really isn’t that different to face to face networking.
How do you do Online Business Networking?
One thing I would say at this point is that online networking takes effort. In the same way that you can’t make a “friend” in a few moments of meeting them, equally you can’t build authentic online relationships without investing effort. This means engaging with people online, asking questions, helping them out, following them, promoting them, starting discussions with them – in the same way you would if you had met them face to face.
Unfortunately there are some people who think they can jump into a network group, post information about themselves and their services and then “viola!” – they think they’ll have a network. Sorry guys and gals but it doesn’t work like that. You need to build authentic relationships with people that are going to add value to your business (and probably your lives in some form or another), and for whom we can do the same (it’s a two way street here).
Find out more about how to build authentic business relationships in my blog on How to Build An Authentic Audience.
What can you expect from Online Business Networking?
Find a network that “fits” you. Facebook, Instagram, Linked In – they are all networks. If this works for you then jump on in. Business Groups in these platforms can be good to join, but research them first or you’ll find that you’re in too many groups to add any real value – and then it becomes pointless and quite frankly, a little bit soul destroying.
As with real life events, you can expect to meet some people that you get on with and some that you don’t. You’ll have the majority who want to engage and build their network but you’ll always get a few who want to shove their business down your throat. It’s just reality – the trick is to recognise those and stay clear (or if they are really spammy then report them).
When someone engages with you please (please) be kind and polite enough to respond to them. Yes it takes time. Yes it can be hard to keep track of all your comments and messages – but this is your business and spending time building your reputation is a critical part of running any company. You don’t know who that person knows or who they will tell about you (and your business) or who they could recommend you to – so always be polite and always respond.
I am in some Facebook Business Groups and I have built some really great relationships through them (so I know they work). I had to try quite a few though to find the ones that were right for me and our Business. As with most relationships, it trial and error. The trick is to learn quickly – if a group isn’t right for you then move on. I know it sounds harsh but honestly, there is no point staying in a Group that doesn’t work for you or where you don’t feel you can add value. The other tip I would give is don’t be afraid to pay to be in a group. If people pay to be in a group then they are likely to be more committed to that group, more likely to want genuine relationships and more likely to engage. There are groups out there to suit all pockets – so again, shop around.
If you don’t want to try lots of groups then ask your network where they hang out and seek their recommendations.
Whilst I have definitely benefitted from Facebook groups, I really like online networking groups where you actually get to join an online event and talk to other members. I really enjoy the discussion and for me, I find it much easier (& more authentic) to build relationships when I have a topic in common to talk to others about (it makes it easier to start conversation).
The sessions are held on platforms like Zoom or Teachable – you normally have to register for the event and then you are sent the log in details for the session. Some sessions have a subject matter expert presenting and some will break you into smaller groups to actually network (sometimes with a specific subject to discuss).
These are online networking sessions where you can dial in from your desk and discuss a range of business topics, perhaps ask questions of your network and support, coach and advise each other as though you were in the same room. Just imagine having guest speakers to teach you about business topics and also being able to have smaller group discussions so that everyone gets the chance to speak and contribute – all whilst you are sat at your desk.
Wouldn’t that be cool?
I still think you need to pair it with real face to face contact – I am sure that you don’t want to hide behind a screen forever, but in my mind online networking definitely has its place. And I think its going to become more popular – especially given our current situation.
If you fancy giving online networking a go – I am hosting an online network session in my Business Group this week and it’s completely free. We will be getting to know one another and talking about business in general. So if you fancy giving it a try and seeing what Online Networking is all about then please do come and join us.
Oh and one more thing, there are no sales or pitches in this session – just genuine people wanting to connect with other genuine business owners.
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How to do Online Business Networking
Green Zebra are Xero Accountants and Business Advisors, specialising in Xero Software. We offer services such as Limited Company Annual Accounts, Personal Tax Returns, VAT, HMRC Administration, Director Self Assessments, Cashflow forecasting and Profit strategies coupled with Business Growth advice.
We are passionate about making Business & Accountancy simpler- we have a low jargon promise and we are friendly, reliable and knowledgeable. We are based in Andover, Hampshire but we work with business owners right across the UK.