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7 Useful Tools To Expand Your Business Network

7 Useful Tools To Expand Your Business Network

Ah yes, the ever-important expansion of your business network question. How do you do it? What are the best ways to network with potential partners, collaborators, and associates these days?

In a constantly evolving world, it’s incredibly important to know how to make connections using the newest and most helpful technology.

If, for instance, this networking conundrum was proposed in the 1990s, the best answer would probably be things like phone calls, business functions, and business cards. Today, these things are terrible for actually making new business connections. No, instead we must turn to our online resource, the internet.

Here are 7 online tools that help expand your business network. Use them wisely.

1. LinkedIn

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    A lot of people still aren’t familiar with LinkedIn and how it works. But then again, these are the people who aren’t making the right business connections. With over 300 million users, LinkedIn is no longer that little-fish social network. It has become the go-to social networking site for all business professionals and is currently the biggest business fish in the social sea!

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    The best way to network with people on LinkedIn is to connect with them, endorse a few things that you know they are good at, and then reach out to them in some small way. Do not pitch them on something, but rather, just message them with a compliment or something similar about something they’ve done that you’ve enjoyed. After building up a bit of a rapport with someone, over a period of time, then you can start to inquire about things and perhaps try working with them.

    2. Twitter

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      Twitter is a personal favorite of mine for connecting with business associates. It’s great because everyone from Richard Branson, to Mitt Romney, to Tim Ferriss is on there. Just about every celebrity, politician, entrepreneur, athlete, or anyone else you could think of is on Twitter. So, in theory, no one is impossible to connect with.

      The average-Joe business man up the street can connect with somebody like Richard Branson on Twitter by using some clever Twitter tactics and saying the right things.

      For instance, if you want to connect with someone (maybe someone a little easier to reach than Branson), the best way to do it is to Follow them, and then start Favoriting and Retweeting their posts. By doing this, over a period of time, you will get their attention. You can then start commenting on their posts, and voila! The next thing you know they’re commenting back and you’ve built up a relationship with someone who can help you out! You can either private message them at this point (if they’ve Followed you back by now), or just ask them in a post thread if you could connect with them beyond Twitter. That’s it!

      3. Podcasting

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        One of the best tools for making connections is creating a podcast. Why podcasting, when we live in a video, in-your-face, visual world you ask? Because radio still rules! People love hearing podcasts and the podcasting industry is growing more and more each year.

        By having a podcast and interviewing people, you can invite all sorts of guests to come on your show. Everyone loves being interviewed and thought of as being special, so many people will typically accept your invitation. By creating a podcast show, you can connect with people in the business-world who would otherwise pass on an invitation to collaborate.

        4. Guest Posting

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          Similar to Podcasting, Guest Posting is such a great way to connect with others. It’s the one, tried-and-true way for bloggers to join forces with one another online.

          Reach out to some of your favorite websites and blogs, and ask them if they’d like to exchange articles with you. You could write them an article that fits their site’s criteria, and they could write an article that fits your site’s criteria, and in turn, you both win! By offering up your service, in the form of a blog post, you are giving them a great incentive to want to work with you and connect.

          5. Facebook

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            Although not as good as LinkedIn or Twitter for connecting with business associates, Facebook still holds a solid place on this list. Especially if you connect with someone’s personal page. Business pages are no good for connecting with. Oftentimes, these pages have way too many followers or people for the person running it (the person you’d like to connect with) to keep track of. A message to a fan page is a message lost.

            Instead, if you can Friend Request someone on their personal page, and you can actually get them to Accept, you are figuratively “In.” Don’t private message them right away, but just like LinkedIn and Twitter, Like some of their posts, Comment, Share, and build up a rapport for a while, and then message them. The message has a far greater chance of being returned if you take your time before sending it!

            6. Email

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              Email is the universal form of contact in today’s world. Almost everyone has an email address. And if someone puts their email address on their website, then you should take that a sign that that they are open to connecting with you. Now, don’t take that to mean you should Spam them with absurd requests. Don’t do that . . . ever!

              No, instead, send a thoughtful, well-planned, and respectful email with your inquiry. Tell them why you are reaching out to them, why they could benefit by working with you, and what you would like them to do if possible. That’s it. Keep it short, respectful, and sweet!

              7. Let’s Lunch

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                This is a really cool app that sets up lunch dates with potential business contacts. It connects with your LinkedIn profile and easily integrates your schedule with the people you’d like to bond with and sets up a scheduled time to meet face-to-face.

                This face-to-face meeting of course is the hands-down best way to really build a relationship with someone, although these days it’s becoming ever-more-difficult to do so. With a helpful little app like Let’s Lunch, however, the old-fashioned way of creating a relationship is being renewed.

                Use these 7 tools right now and start building your business network today. Who knows, you’re next connection could change your life!

                Featured photo credit: Handshake – 2 men via flickr.com

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                Justin Stenstrom

                Nationally-Acclaimed Life Coach

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                Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

                2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

                Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

                Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

                Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

                Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

                Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

                By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

                The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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                1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

                Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

                Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

                Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

                When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

                The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

                Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

                To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

                Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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                We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

                It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

                After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

                Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

                Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

                To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

                Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

                Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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                When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

                Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

                We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

                When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

                Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

                2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

                If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

                The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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                To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

                With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

                So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

                • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
                • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
                • Say no to all else.
                • Say no again.
                • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
                • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
                • Meditate.
                • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
                • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
                • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
                • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
                • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
                • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

                Final Thoughts

                These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

                Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

                More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

                Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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