You’ve heard that the Internet can cause your business to take off. That’s an exciting idea! How exactly do you get there? Follow these eleven tips to develop and sustain successful online business relationships.
1. Define the purpose of your networking
Before you decide to do anything else, think about your purpose. For example, your goal may be to find a better job. Or you may be seeking users for your startup. You may even be looking to learn from other people in your profession. All of these goals are fair game. For the best results, break your goal down into steps.
Consider this example:
Business Networking Online Goal: Get a more interesting and higher paid job.
Step 1: Choose job title and industry I’m interested in (e.g. project management in the financial industry)
Step 2: Search for three people on LinkedIn who currently have that job.
Step 3: Email one of the people found in step two and ask them a few questions
Step 4: Repeat steps 2-3 each week for a month.
2. Focus on one social media platform at a time
In the online world, it is easy to spread yourself too thin. Instead, choose one platform and focus your efforts there. For example, marketing expert and author Seth Godin focuses the majority of his effort on his blog. As a result, he has one of the Internet’s most popular blogs.
3. Write a robust LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn defines itself as the definitive business social network. If you are looking for customers or a new job, LinkedIn is an excellent resource. A strong LinkedIn profile includes your job history (especially your accomplishments), your education and your interests. Make sure your include a photo (see tip 4 below for details).
Asking colleagues and former managers to write recommendations for you is one of the best ways to build an impressive LinkedIn profile.
4. Add a high quality photo of yourself
A few months ago, I paid a friend to take a professional photo of me. The cost was around $30 and it was absolutely worth it. Put some thought and care into your business photo: you will be using it again and again as you start to use different websites.
Not sure what to do? Dress like you’re going to a job interview and SMILE!
5. Deepen relationships via email
A few days or weeks into your efforts, you may be pleased with the number of new people you’ve added as LinkedIn connections (or Twitter followers etc). In order to get business value out of the relationship (e.g. advice for your job search, sales, etc), it makes sense to deepen the relationship. One of the best ways to do is to start an email conversation. Start small by asking 2-3 short and simple questions by email.
6. Deepen relationships via Skype or phone
Sending email back and forth puts you ahead of 90% of people. Asking to speak by phone or Skype immediately puts you into the top 1% of most skilled networkers. Since phone calls involve more effort, ask for calls thoughtfully. For example, if you add 20 people to your LinkedIn network in a month, you may only want to speak with three or four of them.
7. Evaluate your results each month
Each month, evaluate your online business relationship activitives in terms of the goal you set in step one. When you’re first getting started in the online world, you may find that your early results are not quite what you expect. That’s why it makes sense to review your progress each month.
8. Choose how often you update
Building strong relationships takes time. Fortunately, you can speed up the process by active participation. Research reported by Kevan Lee on Fast Company suggested three Tweets per day gives the best results. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your goals and skills.
9. Write thoughtful comments
Self-promotion is important, yet it is not enough to build successful online relationships. Contributing to others is important. That means writing comments! For example, if you come across an interesting article on Twitter, reply to the person who posted it and thank them. If you read a helpful blog post, write a comment saying what you liked about it (e.g “I liked point 8 because it gave me a guideline on how often to update Twitter”).
10. Get training in online business relationships
Building online business relationships takes time and skills. In this article, we can only scratch the surface. To continue building your knowledge, seek out networking experts such as John Corcoran who shows how to connect with important people in Don’t Sweat It: 8 Strategies for Meeting and Connecting with VIPs.
11. Realize there is no replacement for face to face activities
Online tools such as social media and email are helpful for starting and continuing business relationships. However, nothing replaces face to face relationships. That’s why successful people attend conferences, look for events on Meetup.com and spend money on meals and networks.
Tip: To get the most out of a conference, start communicating with fellow conference attendees a few weeks (or months) in advance of the event.
Featured photo credit: Entrepreneur Startup Man/StartupStockPhotos via pixabay.com