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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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