Business owners have known for a long time that networking is important when building the contacts and relationships that are so vital in growing their sales and profits.
You may have assumed that networking was just for offline businesses and consisted mainly of attending events and conferences to meet people face to face.
However, if you are trying to earn income through an Internet business, networking online is every bit as important, if not more so.
If you have already tried starting a business online, you have probably realized that it’s not as simple as just building a website and waiting for people to come and buy your product. Whatever product or service you’re marketing, your website is up against massive competition.
So how do you go about establishing an online presence, so that your site will be the one people want to visit?
The fact is that building a network, or community, around your start-up can be one of the most effective, as well as one of the cheapest, ways to create momentum for your business offering, and earn passive income.
A network is much more than a marketing campaign. If you take the time to build a network in the right way, it can serve you throughout the life of your business.
So what does networking online actually mean? When you initially start your Internet business, nobody has ever heard of you.
You have to put yourself in front of people, and give them a reason to visit before you can even think about them buying from your site, rather than those of your competitors.
Just as in offline networking, people are more likely to choose your offering if they know you and trust you.
So how do you go about making these connections? You start with establishing the platform from which your networking efforts will jump off.
This platform consists at a minimum of a website, a blog, and social media.
A Website that Works
It goes without saying that you must have a website, but make sure it works for you.Your priorities should be to make it easily to navigate, easy to update, and very clear about your product offering.
- Don’t waste money on fancy bells and whistles.
- It’s important for establishing your online presence that you have an About Me page, linked to from every other page. Make this friendly and personal.
- Regularly updated content is essential, both to get your site ranked by the search engines, so people will find it, and also to ensure people know you and benefit from your knowledge. The easiest way to keep your content updated regularly is to use WordPress to put a blog on your site.
- Also, create post in advance and schedule them to be
Communicate by Blogging
- Blogging, either on you site or separately, involves posting regular content, stories and commentary related to your niche, which can be accessed and read, both by your customers and by others in your industry.
- Make sure your blog is interactive, encouraging readers not only to comment, but to message one another. Also make sure you always respond to comments and questions, in a friendly way.
- It’s essential that you post regularly — every day if possible, or at least every two days.
- Aim to post the kind of content that people will want to share. Make sure it has something valuable and distinctive to offer.
- Make it easy for people to share the content with the minimum of effort, by adding the right plug-ins to the blog.
- Curate quality content on your topic from other sources, acknowledging the source and explaining why you think it will be of value. This is very effective in building a network — others will do the same to you.
Once you have your site and blog, you must get active on social media.
Social media sites are online platforms where you can create a profile of yourself, and connect with others.
These are channels that enable you to build a community of interested customers, who will actually spread your information and news for you.
This is also one of the most powerful ways to get your site to the attention of the search engines.
- Set up an inviting user profile. While taking care not to give away sensitive information, remember that the more people know about you, the more real you will seem to them. And don’t forget to keep it updated.
- To help you choose which social media platforms to use, start by understanding where your customers are. For instance, you may know that there’s a group on Facebook concerning your niche, that is used by your customers. You may need more than one, but don’t overdo it at first.
- Facebook and Twitter in particular will help you connect with your customers, current and prospective, and will facilitate the two-way communication you need to build a network.
- Of the two, Twitter is potentially more powerful, because of its viral nature. If you ensure your tweets are regular and meaningful, you can build relationships at an amazing speed.
- LinkedIn is also important for business contacts. It can enable you to be introduced to people via their site, and to establish yourself as an expert in your field by simply asking and answering questions. Importantly, it can also be optimized for search engines. Upgrading to a paid account is an excellent way to build a network, as you can send messages to people who aren’t in your network already.
- Expand your network by setting a daily goal for the number of new connections you make… for instance, new Twitter follows. However, don’t just treat them as numbers… build relationships. Retweet their content, comment on their tweets, and always answer their questions.
Where at all possible, you should aim to transform your online connections into offline ones.
Despite the effectiveness of networking online, the power of face-to-face contact is still unbeaten as a means of building trust. You need to harness this power where you can, to take your relationships to the next level.
- If you are attending a conference on your topic, make this known to all your contacts and encourage them to attend as well.
- Arrange a social event for your contacts, before or after a conference.
- Set up meetings and seminars on your topic, and invite your contacts to attend and contribute.
- Position yourself as a speaker on your topic, and look for invitations to speak.
- Arrange competitions and charity events, and invite your contacts to join in.
- Post photos and videos online of any of these events, and of those attending (with their permission). This will expand the community further.
- After an event, take the new business cards you’ve gained and reach out via email… express how great it was to meet them and ask about connecting again soon. Create a file for those who respond and keep all docs and interactions for future use.
The Internet can be an impersonal place, but at the end of the day, users want to connect with people, not with brands or products.
If you focus on building your network, rather than on advertising your product, you will create strong ties with users, and this is the surest way to bring them to your site.
And the popularity of your site, with all the Shares, Retweets and Likes, will certainly please the search engines too.